Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Dinner

Last evening I prepared a wonderful Christmas Dinner for myself and my friends, Hank and Susan. For starters, we had Crabmeat Stuffed Mushrooms (using the recipe for crabcakes from Tyler Florence from previous post), Field Greens Salad, Horseradish Encrusted Prime Rib (see previous recipe from January, 2010), homemade Mashed Potatoes, steamed Asparagus with Hollandaise, Yeast Rolls, and for dessert Chocolate Rum Swiss Roll.

Everything was so very delicious and I think the dessert choice was especially perfect as it is a very light and flavorful chocolate roll. The recipe is compliments of Martha Stewart.

Chocolate Rum Swiss Roll

Serves 8 to 10

FOR CAKE

Vegetable-oil cooking spray
1/4 cup sifted unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, plus more for pan
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour (not self-rising), plus more for pan
Pinch of salt
3 large whole eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled completely

FOR FILLING

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons light rum
1 1/4 cups heavy cream

FOR FINISHING

Unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

Directions:

1. Prepare oven and baking sheet: Heat oven to 450 degrees, with rack in bottom half. Coat a 12 1/2-by-17 1/2-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper; coat with cooking spray. Dust with cocoa powder and tap out excess.
2. Combine dry ingredients: Whisk together cocoa powder, flour, and salt in a bowl.
3. Combine eggs and sugar: Bring about 2 inches of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over (not in) simmering water, whisk eggs, yolks, and granulated sugar until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch. Attach bowl to mixer fitted with whisk attachment; beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes. Raise speed to high; beat until mixture is pale and thick, about 4 minutes more.
4. Add dry ingredients: Sift cocoa mixture over egg mixture; using a large rubber spatula, carefully fold. When almost incorporated, pour melted butter down side of bowl; gently fold to combine.
5. Bake: Using an offset spatula, spread batter evenly into prepared sheet. Bake cake until golden brown and springy to the touch, 6 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, dust a clean kitchen towel with cocoa powder. Run a knife around sides of cake. Invert onto prepared towel, and remove parchment.
6. Roll into log and cool: While the sheet cake is still warm, gently roll, starting from one short side, into a log, incorporating the kitchen towel. Let the cake cool completely, rolled. (This will give the cake a "shape memory," so it will be easier to roll again with filling.)
7. Meanwhile, make rum syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the water and 1/4 cup sugar. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer until sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat; add rum, then let cool completely.
8. Fill cake and reroll: Unroll cake. Brush entire surface generously with cooled rum syrup. Whip cream and remaining tablespoon sugar until soft peaks form; spread over cake leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Roll cake to enclose filling (without towel), starting at a short end. Wrap the towel around rolled cake, securing with clips or clothespins to help retain the shape.
9. Chill and serve: Refrigerate 30 minutes (or up to 3 hours). Dust with cocoa powder, cut into slices with a serrated knife, and serve. Pin It

Saturday, December 25, 2010

It's Tradition

It's Christmas morning and as I've done every year since I can remember, I made the infamous Breakfast Brunch. It's probably the only time of the year that I make this but it is oh, so delicious and is quick and satisfying for everyone.

It's too late to make it this Christmas morning but there are many other special occasions throughout the year. Make it a new tradition for your family!



Breakfast Brunch

Yields: 12 Servings

3/4 cup milk
4 large eggs
8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ounces Pillsbury crescent rolls
16 ounces sausage meat

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray bottom of 9 x 13 pan with vegetable cooking spray. Press crescent rolls into bottom and up sides about one-quarter inch of pan. Sprinkle cheddar cheese over crescent rolls. Cook sausage. Drain. Crumble sausage over cheese. Mix milk and eggs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over cheese and sausage layer. Bake 12-15 minutes or until browned and bubbly. Let stand 5 mnutes. Cut into squares and serve. Pin It

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Taste Test

I'm entertaining dinner guests Christmas night and tonight I am taste testing cocktails to serve. Probably not a good idea to cram this all in one night!! But alas, that is indeed what I've done!

First up is the Spiced Apple Cider Martini.


Spiced Apple Cider Martini

Yields: 2 Servings

4 ounces spiced apple cider
4 ounces vodka
2 ounces brandy
2 ounces triple Sec
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Combine all ingredients in blender for 5 seconds. Pour mixture into shaker of crushed ice. Shake and pour into 2 martini glasses. Garnish with thin slice of apple (soaked in lemon water to preserve color) and a cinnamon stick.

I have to say this one is yummy but I can't help but think it should be heated and drank from a mug. It tastes just like spice apple cider but, obviously, with a kick!

So, onward to the next concoction . . . the Poinsetta.

Poinsetta

Yields: 2 Servings

1 oz Cointreau or triple sec
Champagne
6 oz cranberry juice

Chill all of the ingredients beforehand. Pour the Cointreau and cranberry juice into a chilled Champagne flute. Stir well. Top with Champagne.

Obviously, the Poinsetta has won! I love this cocktail. It's light and airy and perfect for my Christmas dinner. I'll be serving Crabmeat Stuffed Mushrooms, Field Greens, Prime Rib with Horseradish Crust, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Asparagus with Hollandaise, Yeast Rolls, and for dessert Chocolate Rum Swiss Roll and coffee!! Yum, yum - I cannot wait.

Look for photos from the dinner!
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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tyler Florence's Crabcakes

One of my favorite celebrity chef's is Tyler Florence. I've had the pleasure of meeting Tyler on two separate occasions. Once was in Birmingham at a Southern Living Bake-Off on April 2, 2003. I know that was the specific date because he autographed my copy of "Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen". He wrote "Patti, keep on cooking", then signed and dated it. The autograph probably wouldn't have happened if my friend Michelle hadn't been with me. She is more bold than myself so took my book with her's up to the stage to get his autograph. I was too scared - can you believe that? Yep, I was.

The second occasion where I met Tyler was at a book signing (I should have figured there would be one in Atlanta). My neighbor at the time, Belinda, and I took off work specifically to be at the book signing and meet Tyler, once again. You see, Belinda had the honor of hosting Tyler and his film crew in her home once. Yes, she wrote in for his show, Food 911, about the perils of baking a duck and she was picked. A few months later Tyler and his crew descended on my neighborhood during the middle of the week to film the episode about how to cook an awesome duck. I only wish I had been there but, unfortunately, outsiders were discouraged from filming.

But, at the book signing, he recognized Belinda and we all chatted for a bit before he had to move on to the other fans waiting patiently to have their cookbooks autographed. I have to say I'm thrilled to have met him not only once but twice. What more could a foodie want?

Back to the point of this post - sorry, I get carried away sometimes! Tonight I decided to make Tyler's Crabcakes from the above mentioned cookbook. It's my favorite crabcake recipe and honestly is the only one I ever make. The only alteration I do is I bake mine instead of pan frying them. They are to die for!!

Crab Cakes (slightly adapted)

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 pound lump crabmeat, preferably Dungeness, picked over for shells
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 green onion, finely chopped, white and green parts
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons red chili paste, such as sambal
juice of one lemon
1 egg white
sea salt and ground white pepper

Place crabmeat in bottom of small bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Gently fold all ingredients until thoroughly combined. Using your hands, form the mixture into six crabcakes. Place on a cookie sheet sprayed with PAM. Place in refrigerator overnight or until crabcakes have set.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place crabcakes in heated oven, cooking 25-30 minutes or until browned.

Serve with your favorite mustard, cocktail or aoili sauce! Pin It

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside



My favorite rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and baby, it truly is!! Temp this morning was 22 with a "real feel" temp of 18 degrees. Brrr!!!! Pin It

Friday, November 05, 2010

Chocolate Gingerbread Bars

Chocolate Gingerbread Bars (adapted from Martha Stewart), from http://www.foodbuzz.com/recipes/2747636-chocolate-gingerbread-bars

















3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 Tablespoons unsulfured molasses
1/4 cup sour cream
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Cream Cheese Frosting

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 8 by 8 inch baking pan.
Sift together the flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, kosher salt, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon and allspice. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl with a paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer works fine) combine the 4 Tablespoons unsulfured molasses, 5 Tablespoons melted unsalted butter, 1/4 cup of sour cream, 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar and 1 large egg. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until almost combined. Be careful not to overmix. Add the 1/2 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips and fold them into the batter.

Bake for 20 minutes, be sure not to overbake the bars. Cool the bars completely on a cooling rack. Once cooled completely, frost the bars with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting.

To make the cream cheese frosting - combine the cream cheese and unsalted butter in a large mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment. (a handheld mixer works fine) Once the two ingredients are mixed together, add the vanilla extract and combine. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time. Once all of the powdered sugar is added, slowly increase the speed and then mix mix mix! Be careful not to overbeat the cream cheese frosting.

Feel free to get creative with the toppings! I used milk chocolate shavings and drizzled milk chocolate! Pin It

Friday, October 08, 2010

New Favorite Rita


Okay, this is now my favorite margarita. It is quite good and naturally sweet so hopefully not so fattening as a normal margarita using mix.

1 1/2 ounces tequila
1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
3/4 ounce water
3/4 ounce organic agave nectar (found this on the syrup aisle at Kroger)

Mix in a shaker, shake and pour when ready to drink! Yummy!!!
Pin It

Sunday, October 03, 2010

One For The Pups!

I finally had a moment to make the Greyhounds a new treat - Cheddar Bacon Mini-Muffins. This very simple recipe was included in our recent newsletter for Second Chance Greyhounds so I decided I would make them for my hounds last night.

I think the consensus amongst the group is "yum, yum"! They all decided I can make these again for them anytime!

Cheddar Bacon Mini-Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 strips bacon, crumbled
½ cup cheddar cheese
½ cup milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp bacon drippings

Combine all dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl, beat the egg and stir in the milk and bacon drippings. Pour egg mixture into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Spoon into mini-muffin tin and bake at 375° oven for about 10 minutes. Cool completely before serving. Makes 24 mini-muffins. Pin It

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Spiced Almonds

At a recent Braves game, I stood in front of The Nutty Bavarian cart watching the action on the field all the while inhaling the delicious aroma of the cinnamon sugary nuts being dolled out to the customers at, I must say, outlandish prices. I say that because I have a fabulous recipe for such and can make them at a fraction of the cost that these vendors normally charge.

So, I couldn't get those wonderful cinnamon sugary nuts off my mind all day today so after a quick trip to Kroger this afternoon to pick up some almonds, I commenced to making my own batch.

During the holidays I would normally use pecans but they are so very fattening so I decided to use almonds this time around. And we all know almonds are "brain" food!! And goodness knows, that certainly can't hurt and they are very good for you, too!!

So, without further adieu, here is this fabulous recipe I've been making for years and years. It's such a fast (and delicious) recipe that will never let you down! Enjoy!

Spiced Pecans (or Almonds)

1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup water
2 cups pecans
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine sugar, cream of tartar, cinnamon, and water. Cook to soft ball stage. Add vanilla and nuts. Stir until pecans are sugary. Pour onto waxed paper and separate. Pin It

Banana Nut Bread

I recently had some bananas that were too ripe to eat plain so I decided to make some banana nut bread for the office. Once, again a great hit!

If you have ripening bananas lying around and don't know quite what to do with them, I highly suggest making banana nut bread.

I think everyone loves this special treat and if you don't, you have no idea what you're missing!

Banana Nut Bread

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups bananas, mashed
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

Heat oven to 350º. Grease bottoms only of 2 loaf pans, 8 1/2 × 4 1/2 × 2 1/2 inches, or 1 loaf pan, 9 × 5 × 3 inches. Mix sugar and margarine in large bowl. Stir in eggs. Add bananas, buttermilk and vanilla until smooth; beat until smooth. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda just until flour is moistened. Stir in walnuts. Pour into pans.

Bake 8-inch loaves about 1 hour, 9-inch loaf about 1 hour 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack before slicing. Store tightly wrapped in refrigerator up to 1 week.

Makes 2 loaves (12 slices each) or 1 loaf (24 slices) Pin It

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Shrimp and Grits

I had a craving for Shrimp and Grits and found this recipe so I decided to try it. It is very tasty but didn't do well as leftovers. To solve that, I'd suggest making for a crowd so there aren't any leftovers!! Add a tossed salad and some crusty hard rolls and you'll have quite a meal!

Shrimp and Grits Casserole

A few spoonfuls of cream cheese give the casserole a velvety texture. Garnish with a sprig of fresh parsley, if you like.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)

2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
3/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1 (3-ounce) package 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 large egg whites
1 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp, coarsely chopped (I used salad shrimp, left whole)
Cooking spray
Hot pepper sauce (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Combine milk and broth in a medium heavy saucepan; bring to a boil. Gradually add grits and salt to pan, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook 5 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in Parmesan, butter, and cream cheese. Stir in parsley and next 4 ingredients (through shrimp). Spoon mixture into an 11 x 7–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until set. Serve with hot pepper sauce, if desired. Pin It

Friday, July 30, 2010

Blue Cheese Dressing

Another new love of mine is blue cheese dressing. Not store bought, mind you, but homemade blue cheese dressing. I've never had store bought actually, if you can believe that.

My first experience with blue cheese dressing was at a restaurant I used to work at. They had a most wonderful blue cheese vinaigrette which I loved and indulged in often!

Most recently I was charged with bringing an appetizer or salad to a July 4th dinner. I rummaged through my recipe books, starting with my latest favorite (you guessed it) Home Cooking with Trisha Yearwood. Lo and behold she had a wonderful recipe there for Lettuce Wedge with Blue Cheese Dressing. I had to try it, I said to myself!! And I did and again, it did not disappoint. You will love it as well!

Lettuce Wedge with Blue Cheese Dressing

juice of one large lemon
1 C. mayonnaise
1 C. buttermilk
1/2 C. sour cream
1 1/2 t. garlic powder
1 1/2 t. onion powder
6 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
1 head iceberg lettuce
10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 medium tomato, finely diced


In a medium mixing bowl, combine the lemon juice, mayonnaise, buttermilk, sour cream, garlic powder, and onion powder. Whisk the mixture together until smooth. Add the cheese and mix just until blended. Chill in an airtight container in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving (makes 2 1/2 cups).


Core and quarter head of lettuce and divide among 4 salad plates. Serve a generous dollop over each lettuce wedge and top with bacon and tomato. Pin It

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Stuffed Jalapenos

The latest treat to take to the office didn't involve any sugar at all which is very unusual for me. It does seem that I'm the one to make the cakes, cupcakes, cookies, pies, etc. (I do think I missed my calling as a pastry chef because I love baking so much) but this time the theme was Mexican, for some odd reason so I had to come up with something befitting for such a celebration. What we were celebrating no one really knows but we usually connect our little "feasts" at work with some odd holiday or happening at the office. This week, I think it was just for plain fun as we have all been so terribly busy in our respective projects and have been working really hard. So I think this little celebration was simply a stress reliever for everyone involved, one which was desperately needed and appreciated.

I decided to bring Stuffed Jalapenos to our little fiesta. Yum, yum!! I hadn't made these in some time but they are very delicious and really very easy to make as well. Here's the recipe:

Stuffed Jalapenos

25 medium fresh jalapeno peppers
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
3 C. (12 ounces) finely shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce
4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled

Cut jalapenos in half lenghwise, removing seeds and membranes. In a large saucepan, boil peppers in water for 5-10 minutes (the longer you boil the peppers, the milder they become). Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and Worcestershire sauce. Spoon 2 teaspoonfuls into each jalapeno half; sprinkle with bacon. Place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve warm. Makes about 4 dozen.

Note: When cutting or seeding hot peppers, use rubber or plastic gloves to protect your hands. Avoid touching your face or eyes. It will burn, believe me!!

Definitely, don't boil for very long and to bring on a little more heat for the peppers, when taking out the seeds and the membranes, leave a little membrane on the inside of the pepper. This will most assuredly add the heat your fiesta participants will love!! Pin It

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Key Lime Cake

I recently baked another cake from Home Cooking with Trisha Yearwood. This time it was the Key Lime Cake and what better time of year to do this - in the dead heat of July!

I had always wanted to make one of these but never found the recipe that I wanted to try. Most start with a white cake mix which I refuse to use! No need in that when baking from scratch is so much better.

So, lo and behold, while thumbing through Trisha's (yes, we are now on a first name basis) recipe book, I came across this recipe.

And as all her recipes thus far, this one did not disappoint. My work mates loved it as much as I did. It's definitely a "keeper" recipe and one which I'll have to bake again - very soon!! It's cool and refreshing - perfect to enjoy during these hot summer days!


Key Lime Cake

1 3-oz package lime-flavored gelatin
1 1/2 C. sugar
2 C. sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
5 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/2 C. vegetable oil
3/4 C. orange juice
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 C. key lime juice (I used Nellie & Joe's Key West Lime Juice), from about 25 small Key limes or 4 regular limes
1/2 C. confectioners' sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans.

2. In a large mixing bowl, mix the gelatin, sugar, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir to mix well. Add the eggs, oil, orange juice, lemon juice, and vanilla. Divide the batter evenly among the 3 pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Test for doneness by lightly touching the tops of the layers or inserting a toothpick. Cool the layers in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn them out onto racks.

3. While the layers are still hot, mix the lime juice and confectioners' sugar and pour it over the layers on the racks. You can pierce the layers with a fork to allow the glaze to soak in better. Allow the layers to cool completely as you prepare the icing.

Cream Cheese Icing

1/2 C. butter, room temperature
1 8-oz package cream cheese, room temperature
1 1-lb box confectioners' sugar

Cream the butter and cream cheese. Beat in the confectioners' sugar until the mixture is smooth and easy to spread. I added a bit of Nellie and Joe's Key West Lime Juice, perhaps a 1/4 C. Spread the icing between the layers and on the top and sides of the cake.

I also sprinkled some lime zest over the top! Enjoy!
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Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Birthday Party

Last weekend I held a birthday party for Sami who turned 3 and Lucy who turned 6, both birthdays are June 20th. What a blast we had.

My friend Camille was here for the weekend and this is the video she put together of the event. Enjoy and thanks Camille for the video!!

Sami and Lucy's Birthday Party from Camille Barkley on Vimeo.

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Friday, June 04, 2010

Nutella Cake with Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache












I came across this recipe on a cooking blog, http://www.bunkycooks.com/. It appears she is local to the Atlanta area, too, so I figure it was probably a good recipe. And boy did I nail that one! It is a to die for recipe!! I've made this twice and plan to make another tonight to take to a friend in Birmingham tomorrow. I mean, to die for! It's easy and quick as well! Try it, you will see.

For Cake:

6 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
pinch table salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 13-ounce container Nutellla
1 tablespoon Frangelico
1/2 cup finely ground hazelnuts
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled (I used Ghiardelli)

For Ganache:

1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Frangelico
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (Ghiardelli)
2 ounces whole hazelnuts, toasted and cut in half (I used pre-chopped hazelnuts from the nut section in the grocery store)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; butter a 9-inch springform pan. In a large bowl (preferably metal), whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff. In another bowl, cream the butter and Nutella, then add the Frangelico, egg yolks, and ground hazelnuts. Fold in melted chocolate.

Add a large tablespoon of beaten egg whites to the chocolate batter, and mix gently until well-combined. Fold in the remaining whites, one-third at a time, very gently but thoroughly. Pour into springform and bake for 35-40 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting tester, which should come out mostly clean; lightly pressing finger into top to check for a slight bouncing-back; and observing edges beginning to separate from pan. (My cake was done in 35 minutes). Let cool completely, in pan, on a rack.

Toast the hazelnuts in a dry skillet, or toaster oven shaking them around frequently. Do it for about 4 minutes, or until they are lightly browned, then let cool completely. If hazelnuts came with skins on, put them in a towel after toasting and rub around; this will remove most of the skins. Cut in half. (again, I use the pre-chopped hazelnuts from the nut aisle and I didn't toast them - still scrumptious)

Chop chocolate, and add to sauce pan with heavy cream and Frangelico over medium-low heat. Once chocolate is melted and components are combined, whisk until mixture reaches desired thickness, then cool. Remove rim of cake pan and pour cooled ganache over, spreading lightly to create a smooth, shiny surface, and apply hazelnuts all over.

This cake is at its best when served at room temperature. Pin It

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Carrot Cake

Another fantastic cake in the recipe book, Home Cooking with Trisha Yearwood, is the Carrot Cake. I recently made this for a birthday for a work mate. It was quite a hit, so much so that my work mates have already requested a repeat!

I've made Carrot Cake before but this recipe "takes the cake", no pun intended. It is moist and has a dark tint to the six layers (yes, six). This can definitely be attributed to the fact that the carrots are pureed and not shredded.

Of course, the entire cake does take some time to bake and assemble but let me tell you, it is well worth every minute!

CARROT CAKE (Serves 12)

3 cups granulated sugar
1½ cups corn oil
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1½ cups walnuts, finely chopped
1½ cups frozen grated coconut, thawed
1½ cups pureed carrots (about 6 medium, boiled)
¾ cup crushed pineapple, drained

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom of three 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray, line with circles of parch¬ment paper, and grease the paper with cooking spray.

With an electric mixer, cream the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture. Add the walnuts, coconut, carrot puree, and pineapple, and beat until smooth. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool the layers in the pans for about 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of each pan and turn the layers out onto wire racks that have been sprayed with cooking spray. Cool the layers completely before frosting (see Note).

NOTE: After the layers have cooled, wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. They are easier to handle and cut in half the next day. Also, to handle as little as possible, put the first layer of cake on the plate you intend to store it on, slice it in half, ease a piece of parchment between the layers, and lift the top portion off. Frost the bottom slice, and then add the next layer. Continue until the entire cake is frosted.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, room temperature
6 cups confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups walnuts, finely chopped

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in an electric mixer and beat until smooth. Slowly add the confection¬ers' sugar and continue beating until fully combined. Add the vanilla.

Slice each layer horizontally in half using an electric knife. Frost each layer, the sides, and the top of the cake. Press the chopped walnuts into the sides of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy! Pin It

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Bite or a Kick?

My next creation from Home Cooking with Trisha Yearwood were these delightful little Jalapeno Bites. I made these for our appetizer feast we had planned at the office to celebrate Cinco de Mayo (we will apparently celebrate anything if it provides us an opportunity to cook)! And, once again, the recipe did not disappoint. They are wonderful, to say the least! Addicting, too, and not at all "diet friendly"!

Through the years I have found the best and hottest jalapeno peppers are those found at Subway. Yes, it's true! Try them on your next Subway sandwich and you'll see what I'm talking about. With that being said, before I made these, I had to go to Subway to get my jalapenos!! They were perfect, providing the necessary "bite" or "kick" that made this appetizer outstanding and a definite crowd pleaser! Try them for your next office celebration or just to munch on at home! You'll love them, too!

Jalapeno Bites

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
8 ounces grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons chopped jalapeno peppers
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 cups dry breadcrumbs

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Combine the cream cheese, Parmesan, jalapeño peppers and egg in a bowl and mix to form a paste.
3. Shape a 1/2 tablespoonful at a time into 1/4-inch rounds and roll in the bread crumbs.
4. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
5. Serve warm.
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Friday, May 14, 2010

Another New Recipe Book . . .

As most cooks would agree, you can never have too many recipe books. The latest of my purchases is Home Cooking with Trisha Yearwood. I have to say I have been quite pleased with the dishes I have made thus far. Most of the recipes are typical Southern fare with a twist here and there. Accompanying many of the recipes are handwritten notes from Trisha herself whether they be about the recipe, or a favorite holiday or memory associated with the recipe, or a family member or friend associated with the recipe. Hence, the recipe book is both entertaining and useful!

One of her favorites in the Appetizer section is this Charleston Cheese Dip which I made recently for a co-worker's birthday celebration. It was quick and easy and delicious!! Everyone devoured it in record time. It definitely was a hit and is something I plan to make as a starter for dinner guests next Friday evening.

Here is the recipe:



Charleston Cheese Dip

1/2 cup mayo
1 8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup grated sharp cheddar (4 oz)
1/2 cup grated monterey jack
2 green onions, chopped
dash of cayenne pepper
8 ritz crackers, crushed
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (I used Hormel bacon bits)

Preheat to 350 degrees. Mix all but the crackers and bacon, spread into shallow 1-quart baking dish. Top with cracker crumbs, bake for 15 minutes. Remove and top with bacon bits. Serve with corn chips, crackers or bagels chips.
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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

As I mentioned in a previous blog, I plan to make lots of cupcakes in the upcoming months - all out of Martha Stewart's Cupcakes recipe book.

These delicious, moist, yummy Chocolate Chip Cupcakes were on the very first page of the very first chapter. They looked so good and sounded so good that I decided to try them first.

And, of course, they did not disappoint. They were the most delicious cupcakes! My workmates enjoyed every one of them!

Here's the recipe!

3 1/4 C. plus 1 T. sifted cake flour
4 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 T. vanilla extract
1 C. plus 2 T. milk
1/2 C. plus 6 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 C. sugar
5 large egg whites, room temperature
2 C. semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper lines. Whisk together 3 1/4 C. cake flour, the baking powder, and salt. Stir the vanilla into the milk to combine.

2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter until smooth. Adding the sugar in a steady stream, beat until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk mixture, and beating until just combined after each.

3. In another bowl, with an electric mixture on medium speed, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form (do not overmix). Fold one-third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten. Gently fold in the remaining whites until just combined. Toss chocolate chips with remaining tablespoon cake flour, and gently fold into batter.

4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean and the tops are springy to the touch, about 22 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

5. To finish, use a small offset spatula to spread cupcakes with frosting. Refrigerate up to 3 days in airtight containers; bring to room temperature and, if desired, decorate with white sprinkles before serving.

Dark Chocolate Frosting:

1/2 C. plus 1 T. unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 C. plus 1 T. boiling water
2 1/4 C. unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 C. confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 pounds semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Combine cocoa and the boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, confectioners' sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add melted and cooled chocolate, beating until combined and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the cocoa mixture, if not using immediately, frosting can be refrigerated up to 5 days or frozen up to one month, in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth again.

Next on the list, Margarita Cupcakes!! Que la celebración comenzar!
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Monday, May 03, 2010

Trials and Tribulations of Public Transportation

As luck would have it, it is raining cats and dogs this morning and, of course, it's Monday. I contemplated driving into work, however, I decided it best to ride public transportation as I normally do because I figure it would be safer than driving.

It's truly messy getting on the bus with an umbrella in the pouring rain, but not much more than getting into the SUV, I guess, so I headed to the bus stop at o'dark thirty this morning determined to make the best of it. The rain had let up a bit so getting on the bus was no problem. Once onboard, I settled into my seat, grabbed my Zune, and commenced to listening to some tunes. As usual, I was dozing in no time!

I awoke, as I normally do, when we turned off the Interstate weaving our way toward Forsyth Street which would take us to the Five Points MARTA station where I would get on the train heading North. Once we arrived in front of the station, I disembarked from the bus only to notice there were crowds and crowds of people out front as well as inside of the station. This seemed a bit unusual to me but I chaulked it up to the rain and it being a Monday. Silly me (if I had only known)! And well, I wasn't fully awake from my nap yet, however, that was about to change!

Much to my dismay, when I walked further down into the station on the way to the Northbound track, I was confronted with folks telling me something - one after the other. Of course, I was still listening to my music so didn't hear a word they were saying. I took my ear plugs out just in time to hear a few folks tell me that the Northbound train wasn't running. Once I arrived at that platform, a MARTA attendant told us that the Northbound train would be running from the Southbound track, that the electricity was out on the Northbound track. So, a group of us turned around and headed for the Southbound track. Once we arrived there, the MARTA attendant told us that the train had arrived on the wrong side of the track (the Northbound side where we just were standing) but that it couldn't go Northbound but would be heading to the airport. What to do?

Now I'm reading the AJC and they say there was a fire in the tunnel near the Midtown station which prompted the outage. This has happened before in that same tunnel. I ask you, how does a fire start in the tunnel of a train where there is no access to humans (well, unless you're on a train)? Are the rats catching on fire from standing on the electric track? If so, wouldn't they just burn quickly? What is in the tunnel that is catching fire? Perhaps they should install a sprinkler system within the tunnels or at the very least rid the area of debris on a weekly basis. But I digress . . .

Anyhoo, after the last misguided information about the train, the attendant then told us that there were MARTA shuttles outside on Forsyth Street that would take us to the Art Center station where we could take a Northbound train from there, circumventing the problem at the Midtown station. My own bus, the GA Xpress 477, goes to the Art Center station as well so I decided to go back out to wait on the next 477 to come along. I would catch that one and head North to Arts Center and catch the train from there. I headed back up to the top of the station. As I'm on the escalator almost to the top, I drop my Breeze card, flat on the escalator step that is rolling and rolling. The Breeze card is a plastic card the side of a credit card that holds fare for the bus and the train which at this time has about $70 worth of fare on it. I knelt down to grab it just in time before the top of the escalator sucked it, and my fingers and hand, underneath!! Whew, that was a close call - scared me to death!

After gathering my wits about me after that incident, I headed back outside. Unfortunately, I went to the Peachtree exit instead which meant I had to tap in and out twice to get to the Forsyth Street side where the buses were. It's $2 to come in or out without transferring to a bus. Oh well, I finally made to to the buses where I boarded a GA Xpress bus that was headed to the Arts Center. Not the 477 but another one who said he would go that way to help out. Once onboard, the MARTA attendent on the sidewalk announced that the trains were now running so I quickly disembarked from the bus and headed back into the train station to catch the train. Thank God, a MARTA attendant was there at the turnstiles letting folks back in without paying yet AGAIN.

I headed to the Northbound track where probably 5,000 people were headed as well. I was able to catch the next Doraville train heading North, arriving at the Doraville station at 7:13 a.m. Just in time to catch the 7:15 a.m. shuttle to the office off Clairmont Road. Our shuttle driver had the most aromatic cup of coffee that made me wanting that first cup ever so badly. After arriving at my building, I immediately headed to the snack bar to get that coffee which is just what the doctor ordered.

Safe and sound and dry again! All is well! Pin It

Saturday, May 01, 2010

It's Derby Day!!

Whoo hoo!! I cannot wait until 4 p.m. when coverage of the 136th Kentucky Derby starts on NBC.

The simple syrup for the Mint Juleps is chilling in the frig and the lobster is thawed and ready for the oven. I'm ready! The recipe I used this year for the Mint Juleps is very simple and very delicious. Here it is:

For mint syrup:

2 Cups water
1 Cup granulated sugar
4 sprigs fresh mint

Bring water to a boil in a sauce pot. Once boiling, remove from heat, then whisk in sugar. When the sugar is dissolved add the leaves of four sprigs of mint, then steep for 10 minutes. Strain syrup to remove the mint leaves. Chill in refrigerator.

To mix the drink:

Chill a low-ball glass in the freezer. Fill the frosted low-ball half full with crushed ice. Add a touch of Bourbon and a couple torn up mint leaves. Then stir. Add more crushed ice and pour 2-3 oz. of Bourbon and a healthy splash of the mint syrup, to taste. Serve with a sprig of mint.

Enjoy!

And that I did. This has to be the best Mint Julep I've had to date. I think this recipe is a keeper, for sure.

As for the Derby, it was awesome. The winner was Super Saver, ridden by jockey Calvin Borel, who also rode Mine That Bird to victory in last year's Derby, as well as Street Sense in 2007. What a ride it was! Muddy, muddy, and more mud, but Calvin and Super Saver prevailed. The trainer, Todd Pletcher, had entered 24 horses in past Kentucky Derbys, including four in this race, however, his horses always fell short. But not this time!

And to top off the wonderful win for Calvin and Todd Pletcher, the gentleman, Glen Fullerton from Houston, Texas, who won the chance to place the "Dream Bet" with $100,000 given to him by Churchhill Downs, Inc. and CNBC bet on Super Saver and won $900,000!

All in all, it was a delightful "two minutes of the fastest sport" I've seen in some time. Life is good - especially for Calvin Borel, Todd Pletcher, Winstar Farm, and, of course, Glen Fullerton. Congratulations to all the winners!

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Friday, April 30, 2010

Cupcakes . . . and More Cupcakes

About a year ago my friend Michelle and I stood in line at the Georgia Aquarium to purchase Martha Stewart's recipe book, Cookies: The Very Best Treats to Bake and to Share plus we had an opportunity to meet Martha and get her autograph on our recipe books. We were quite thrilled, as you can imagine. Since that time, I have made several of those recipes and have been quite pleased with the results, as have my officemates!

So when Martha released her cupcake recipe book, Cupcakes: 175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone's Favorite Treat, I had to get it right away. After scouring the book from front to back, I decided that I must commence to baking cupcakes for my officemates. Yes, they are one lucky bunch of folks!

The first selection is Martha's Strawberry Cupcakes. Oh my, I can't say enough good things about these. They were light, moist, airy - perfect for Spring. Everyone in the office LOVED them and have been requesting another batch almost daily. Here is the recipe. It truly is worth a try - you won't be disappointed.














Martha Stewart’s Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Meringue Buttercream Frosting

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 ¼ cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large whole eggs plus 1 egg white
1 cup milk
2 cups finely chopped fresh strawberries (about 20), plus about 10 more for garnish, if so desired

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line standard muffin pans with paper liners. Sift together both flours, baking powder, and salt.
2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter, sugar, and vanilla until pale and fluffy. Add whole eggs and the white, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the milk, and beating until well combined. Fold in chopped strawberries by hand.
3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each about three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown and toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks and cool 15 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto rack and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored up to 1 day at room temperature in airtight containers.
4. To finish, fill a pastry bag fitted with a large open-star (Ateco #826 or Wilton #8B) with buttercream frosting (recipe below). Pipe buttercream onto each cupcake, swirling tip and releasing as you pull up to form peak. Just before serving, thinly slice strawberries, and tuck a few pieces into the buttercream.

Strawberry Meringue Buttercream Frosting

1 ½ cups fresh strawberries (8 ounces), rinsed, hulled, and coarsely chopped
4 large egg whites
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 ½ cups (three sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temperature

1. Puree strawberries in a food processor. Combine egg whites and sugar in the heatproof bowl of a standing electric mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips.)
2. Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, mix until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes.

Be sure and watch this blog for more cupcake recipes!! There's definitely many more in the works!
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm In Love!!








No, silly, I'm not talking about my iPhone however let it be known that I will never fall out of love with it!

Unfortunately, I am also not talking about a man, as much as I wish that were the case!

I am talking about butter!! Fresh, homemade butter! I came across a recipe to make homemade butter today that I had to try out. It is quite simply, the easiest recipe you'll ever try. Here it is:

2 C. Heavy Cream
Pinch Kosher Salt

Whip heavy cream in food processor, adding pinch of kosher salt. Continuing whipping 6-10 minutes. The cream will soon begin looking like very thick whipped cream. Then it will begin to form a ball and the liquid will separate. Remove excess liquid and place butter in a dish. You can save the (buttermilk) liquid to use in pancakes or baked "fried" chicken. Most awesome.

And, of course, homemade butter is the perfect accompaniment to homemade buttermilk biscuits!

Buttermilk Biscuits

4 Cups all-purpose or flour (White Lilly or cake flour)
2 Tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Cups buttermilk

Mix dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter, cut butter into dry mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and mix gently until combined. Roll out on floured surface 1/2-inch thick. Cut with round cutter. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes until golden brown.

Enjoy with your fresh butter!! Pin It

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Success!!

I adopted my dear Sami (formerly Oakland Scarboro) back in June of 2009. In the beginning, I tried to teach her to sit using the "tuck" method. She was totally against me trying to tuck her, instead acting as if I were about to cut off her back legs. I tried backing her into a corner, but that didn't work. I tried backing her into a hill and that didn't work. I temporarily gave up thinking she might just be one of those dogs who would NEVER sit!!

Some time had passed and I thought I would try again. This time, oddly enough, she was amenable to me tucking her back legs to position her in a sit. It took about two weeks of nightly training and then we were at a Meet and Greet two weekends ago and like magic, she just sat!! All on her own (and on command) and for a stranger who happened to be there with treats!! It wasn't even with me!! I stood there screaming and jumping in excitement. I was afraid I had scared her to death with my antics and she would never do it again, but alas, while we were sitting at a restaurant down the street from the M&G grabbing a late lunch she surprised me again. Lo and behold, out of the corner of my eye, I see this most beautiful sight!!

Now, as you can imagine, I can hardly get her butt off the ground. She has definitely made the association with her sitting and her getting a treat, and of course, with the "sit" command! I am so very proud of my girl. She really is a smart cookie!

This past weekend we were lure coursing in Cartersville . This was the first trial since Sami's toe amputation in January. She did fairly well, however, I could tell she did have some difficulty managing the turns and she was not nearly as fast as she had been. The sluggishness I can chaulk up to not being in shape and the turning thing is definitely her getting used to not having all of that toe and the nail that she might otherwise use to plant in the ground when turning.

Although she placed last in her category (took NBQ out of five entries) and Lucy placed 2nd out of two entries in her category, I cannot say that the coursing day was all that successful as far as placements go, however, neither sustained any injuries and both had a marvelous time running the course! And I had a grand time hanging with my coursing buddies. All in all, it was a VERY successful day.

Couple that with Sami's success with sitting plus Second Chance Greyhounds sent six new Greyhounds to the prison program last week and we adopted three this past weekend - I have to say the last few weeks have been very successful!

I am very grateful for all that I have! Life is good!! Pin It

Monday, February 22, 2010

Luscious Chocolate Covered Cherries


I'm about two weeks late with these as I would normally make these for Valentine's Day, however, I wanted to make them for my Daddy for his birthday so I waited.

As I previously blogged, they were a big hit with him and actually are a big hit with most men. At least that has been my experience. So, why not make a batch today for your man? He'll love them and will love you even more! Trust me!

Here is the recipe:

Homemade Chocolate Covered Cherries

2 pounds sifted powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 large jars maraschino cherries w/stems
1 cup brandy
additional powdered sugar
1 pound semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 block paraffin, chopped

Drain maraschino cherries well. Pour brandy over cherries and let sit overnight. Drain again, this time pat dry with paper towels.

Cream together sifted powdered sugar, butter and condensed milk. Add almond extract. Mold this mixture in small amounts around the dried cherries to create a layer which entirely envelopes the cherry. Dip hands in powdered sugar to make it easier when molding mixture around cherries. Place balls on a cookie sheet and freeze for at least 45 minutes.

Melt the chocolate chips and chopped paraffin in the microwave for 5 minutes on high, stirring every minute to keep chocolate from burning. This can be reheated in microwave if gets too thick. Dip cherries into chocolate mixture using the stem. Place on another cookie sheet on wax paper to cool. Let sit overnight. Enjoy! Pin It

The Weekend

This past weekend I meandered down to Panama City to visit with friends and family. The occasion you ask? Well, my Daddy turns 75 tomorrow so we celebrated this past Saturday but more on that later.

Before I headed down, I headed up - up to Canton to drop the girls off at Ms. Kate's place, Manyhounds Inn, however I call it "Camp Whynot". She has a small kennel in her basement where she boards Greyhounds and only Greyhounds. The perfect spot in the country for my girls to relax and enjoy the weekend. Before I left, I wanted to show Ms. Kate the lumps on Sugar's neck in case it started draining again, which it has been doing off and on since the dog fight back in October. While she was looking at Sugar, I headed outside to gather Remi and Lucy. When I returned, Ms. Kate had found the most interesting thing in her neck . . . a drainage tube!! Yes, a drainage tube. Somehow the vet or vet tech missed this one when they were removing the others. It had also regressed back under the skin so was not noticeable to me until recently when her body began rejecting it, we assume. The very tip was visible from the outside, however, I thought it was an internal stitch coming out so had planned to take her to the vet this week to get it checked out. In any event, Ms. Kate is a Registered Nurse so removing the tube was nothing extraordinary to her. Thank goodness I showed her Sugar's neck and thank goodness she knew what the problem was!! After that little episode, I then headed back home to finish making my birthday present to my Dad . . . homemade chocolate covered cherries! (that blog post will happen tomorrow)

Once home and after the cherries were complete and packaged for giving, and the car was loaded, I then commenced to driving to Panama City. I arrived there around around 5:30 p.m., just in time for dinner. My sister Pam had planned for us to go out to The Captain's Table down on Beck Avenue in old St. Andrews. It was delicious. We each ordered a fried seafood platter. Needless to say, I was stuffed after all that food. I don't think I've had a meal like that in months!!

The next morning I met a friend from high school for coffee at the Starbuck's in Lynn Haven. I just happened to bring my senior year annual with me for us to thumb through and reminisce. We did and had a great time catching up on what our classmates are doing. He filled me in on those he knew and I did the same with those I knew. It was really fun Steve! I enjoyed it.

After that I went to help my niece move a few boxes from her old townhouse to her new townhouse. Then it was back to Pam's to get ready for dinner. Not just any ole dinner, but a dinner cruise which was a surprise for my Daddy for his birthday!

We left her house around 3:30 p.m. so we could pick up Jenny, my niece, Zac, my nephew, and Jenny's friend Craig who was going to be our personal photographer for the evening. After all that, we headed to Baytowne Marina inside Sandestin where our ship was docked. I don't know the length of the ship but it was quite nice. To the left is a picture of it I took from my iPhone. The name of the ship is the Solaris and it's with Sunquest Cruises.

We boarded the ship meeting up with my brother, his wife, and three kids who were already there waiting on everyone else. After meeting them, Craig managed to snap a few photos of us, then we waited for Daddy and his girlfriend, Pat, to arrive. Soon thereafter we saw them walking down the dock on their way to the boat. Pat had bought my Daddy there as a so-called post-Valentines dinner but unbeknownst to him, we were there to surprise him. And that we did. Can you tell?

He was so surpised to see us and was so surprised that we were there for HIS birthday. After a few more pictures, we finally headed to our table. I believe there were 13 of us total. Soon after they began our little cruise out to the Choctawhatchee Bay. Drinks were ordered and served and we had an opportunity to order appetizers, if we so desired. I did, and ordered a Shrimp Cocktail for those on our end of the table. They were huge and delicious! After that, they began serving our dinner. First came wonderful soft bread with delicious seasoned butter in tubs. Then salads were next with a delightful light dressing already on them. They added a special touch to the salads, one which I just love, and that is a few roasted walnuts! Delicious!! After that, the main course. We had to preorder our dinner but there were choices for everyone including a chicken dish, tenderloin of beef, fresh fish, and shrimp pasta. I believe everyone enjoyed their choices immensely as I don't recall seeing any food left on any plates!! Once the dinner plates were removed out came dessert which on that night happened to be New York Style Cheesecake which also had a delicious sauce (caramel maybe?) ladled over it.

Everyone had nothing but wonderful compliments for the staff and food. The portions were just right, serving temperatures were just right, and the timing by our waiter was just right. We couldn't have asked for anything more. If you are in the Panama City/Destin area, I highly recommend you book a reservation on the Solaris for your own dinner cruise. You won't be disappointed!

After dinner was over, Daddy had an opportunity to unwrap his gifts. He opened the birthday cards first and then my gifts. I had purchased a coffee mug, complete with a caricature drawing of my four Greyhounds, compliments of Kim Morris who is a very multi-talented person! After the coffee mug (which was completely filled with Hershey Kisses), came time for him to open the candy tin filled with homemade chocolate covered cherries!! He was tickled that I had made his favorite candy! I love making them and I know he loves to eat them so it seemed to be the perfect gift for a 75 year old who has EVERYTHING!! After my gifts, he opened the big gift that was from all of us. It was a picture collage of all those he holds dear to his heart, including a picture of my Mom who passed away in 2001. I believe it was her Senior portrait picture from high school. So awesome! He was so pleased with his gift, I could tell it on his face. There were pictures of us kids (Pam, my brother Tadpole and myself), plus all the grandkids, Mom, and Ms. Pat. That's something he'll cherish, I know, for years to come. My gifts are for immediate consumption but the picture collage, that one is for a lifetime!

After that, the ship was back at the dock and it was time to drive home. The drive back was much quieter than the drive over, as you can well imagine. We did enjoy spotting the numerous (too many to count) deer we would see on the beach side of Highway 98. They were eating clover on the side of the road, my BIL said. Oddly, they would stay put as we drove past, hardly even noticing there were cars within feet of them.

Once home, I hit the bed almost immediately!! It was a long day and I knew I had to get up the next morning bright and early and head home. I left around 9:30 a.m. arriving at Ms. Kate's in Canton around 3:15 p.m. I picked up the girls from there and headed on home, arriving around 5:30 p.m. Wow, another long day. But I was glad to be home and the girls were equally as happy as they immediately ran into the backyard to romp in their own yard!!

Oh, a visit to Ms. Kate's is not complete without a picture or two of the girls in an array of hats. Here is Lucy as the Joker. I thought it very appropriate! :) She said in an email today that keeping them is no problem - that they are very happy girls. And that they are!

I'm hoping to get back to Panama City in April to do some kayaking with my sister and BIL. It's their latest hobby, one which I plan to take up as well. I'm very much looking forward to it!
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Making Whoopie!

Silly, I'm talking about making Whoopie Pies!! Yet another confection I had never made before and was dying to make.

So, the perfect little celebration at work presented itself and I decided the Whoopie Pies would be a great contribution! So, I scoured the Internet searching for the perfect recipe and lo and behold, found what I was looking for at http://www.marthastewart.com/.

Here is the recipe:

Whoopie Pies (makes 2 dozen sandwiches)

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Seven Minute Frosting

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift together flour, salt, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside. Line two baking pans with Silpats (French nonstick baking mats) or parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Beat until well combined. Slowly add dry ingredients. Mix until combined.
2. Using a 1-ounce ice-cream scoop, place cookies onto lined baking pans, twelve per pan. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining batter.
3. Spread 2 tablespoons of frosting onto each of twenty-four of cookies. Sandwich together with remaining twenty-four cookies. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Do not stack!!

The cookies resemble devils food cake and the Seven Minute Frosting adds just enough flavor as the filling. Not too sweet and not too overbearing. A great combination!!

These are certainly wonderful "pies" which I will definitely make again in the future. Why not make some tonight? Pin It

Monday, February 08, 2010

The "Feel Good" Soup

I've never been a big soup person but lately that seems to be my forte, huh? I suppose it's the extremely cold temperatures we've been enduring which has forced me to rethink the soup thing.

In any event, this weekend seemed the perfect time to make my first batch of Chicken Noodle Soup, complete with homemade noodles, of course!

For the noodles, I used a basic egg noodle recipe (see below). Then, using my pasta machine and the fettucine setting, I made the noodles, cutting them several times for use in the soup. If you don't have a pasta machine, you can always roll the dough with a rolling pin and hand cut the noodles. Either method will result in the most delicious homemade noodles you've ever tasted!

Ingredients:

2 1/4 C. plain flour
3 eggs, lightly beaten

Sift the flour onto a clean work surface, forming a mound. Make a hollow in the center. Break the eggs into the hollow. With a fork, break up the eggs and start gradually whisking, incorporating the flour from the edges a little at a time. Try not to let the egg spill over the sides. Keep whisking and then mixing by hand until all the flour is incorporated.

Knead the dough lightly for 6-8 minutes until glossy. The dough should not be sticky; add more flour if necessary. Cover the dough lightly and leave to rest for 30 minutes before using.

Here is the recipe I used to make the soup. And on a cold winter weekend, there is no other soup that warms the body and the soul quite like homemade chicken noodle soup!

Ingredients:

4 C. water
2 (32-ounce) cartons fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 T. olive oil
1 C. onion
1 C. celery
1 t. salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
3 medium carrots, chopped
12 ounces egg noodles
5 C. shredded cooked chicken breast
2 T. McCormick's All-Purpose Seasoning
4 T. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Combine water and chicken broth in a large dutch oven. Add onion, celery, salt, pepper, and carrot. Bring to a boil. Stir in chicken and noodles. Turn down heat and simmer until chicken is throughly heated and noodles are al dente. Stir in parsley. Serve with warm french bread!

Obviously this makes quite a large pot of soup so invite friends over to enjoy it with you or freeze some for later or you can always half the recipe!!

A perfect meal for a perfectly cold, winter day! It will definitely make you feel good! Pin It

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chicken Florentine Ravioli - My First Pass!

This past weekend I decided to pull out the pasta maker, complete with the ravioli attachment, and try my hand at making ravioli. The flavor of choice? Chicken Florentine, of course!

First thing to do was make the pasta dough which is great fun! I must say I love rolling the dough through the pasta maker, watching the texture get more perfect with each roll!

Here is a basic dough recipe worth trying!

1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons water

Directions:
In a medium sized bowl, combine flour and salt. Make a well in the flour, add the slightly beaten egg, and mix. Mixture should form a stiff dough. If needed, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons water.

On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 3 to 4 minutes. With a pasta machine or by hand roll dough out to desired thinness. Use machine or knife to cut into strips of desired width.

If you've never made homemade pasta before, take a look at this web page. Very good information!

http://allrecipes.com/HowTo/Making-Pasta-Dough/Detail.aspx

Beware, once you make pasta yourself, you will probably never buy it in the store again! The freshness of the homemade pasta just can't be beat!! You can make noodles without owning a pasta maker, however, I must say having this nifty little kitchen gadget does make the work a bit easier! And it's loads of fun!!

For the filling:
1 c. (4 oz.) ground cooked chicken
10 oz. fresh spinach, cooked, drained and chopped
3 tbsp. butter, melted
3 tbsp. Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
Dash of pepper

Combine chicken, spinach, and melted butter. Stir in cheese, salt, nutmeg, and pepper. Set aside.

So the dough is ready and the filling is ready. Now to make the ravioli. Instead of hand cutting the ravioli, I tried using the ravioli attachment for my pasta maker. I was not that successful with it, I have to say and decided that when I make ravioli again, I will roll the dough, cut the dough, fill the ravioli and crimp the edges myself. I think, in the end, it will be less work and aggravation!

When your ravioli squares are complete using either method, cook ravioli in large pot of rapidly boiling salted water for 7 to 8 minutes or until tender. Rinse in cold water and drain well. Place in bowl and pour your favorite warmed marinara sauce over it. Sprinkle with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

Even though I had difficulty with the ravioli attachment, my efforts weren't totally wasted as I did get three very wonderful meals out of the experience. Plus I learned more about making pasta! And I have left-over noodles, perfect for that next batch of lasagna!!

Now, doesn't that bowl of ravioli look delicious? Trust me, it was! Add a Caesar Salad and warm garlic bread and you've got a meal!

Try making your own pasta at least once, you won't be disappointed.
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Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Raw Diet

Most everyone knows I feed raw to my Greyhounds. Actually, I feed half kibble and half raw. For kibble, it's Innova Evo which is the next best thing to feeding raw, in my humble opinion. It's grain-free and is high protein and high fat. This is their morning meal. For their evening meal, I usually feed raw chicken backs which typically have some organ meat still attached so they are getting those nutrients as well. I mix up the chicken backs with turkey necks (once a week), beef heart, mackeral, beef liver, ground beef, ground chicken, ground rabbit, chicken livers, stew meat, etc. It's all raw - not cooked.

One day I'm going to get my courage up to get some chicken feet. I know, it's disgusting, but they are suppose to be great for their teeth and they usually love 'em! Oh, and they also get fruit regularly and frozen veggie glop which has a mixture of veggies, cottage cheese, and raw eggs!! When I'm baking and have egg shells left over, they get those, too!! Yep, it's okay to feed all these things and typically your dog will flourish. They love all of it and if kibble weren't around, this is what they would eat! And they have the whitest teeth and freshest breath!!

So, yesterday it was time to stock back up on chicken backs. I get these at a place in Marietta called Tip Top Foods. They charge $14 or so for 40 pounds. I purchased two 40 pound cases and the total was $32. And for the first time, I purchased a 40 pound case of turkey necks for $21. All of this will last 2-3 months for four Greyhounds, again, just feeding the evening meal. How long all that will last depends on how much of the other I slide in on a weekly basis! And that depends on what I can get and at what price!

Once I got home from Tip Top, I carried the cases (one by one) into the kitchen and began the tedious task of separating and bagging up the chicken backs and then the turkey necks. Then I tossed everything into the small deep freezer in the garage. Done!

It's not fun, that's for sure, but I know that what I'm doing benefits the girls so much. Their health is my most primary concern so whatever it takes to keep them healthy AND happy, well, that is what I do!

Remember, it's all about the dogs, isn't it?!
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Monday, January 18, 2010

Chewy California Fig Bars

Another treat I've always wanted to make and just hadn't yet is fig bars. I found a great recipe, Chewy California Fig Bars, that I thought suitable for the dried California figs I had on hand. So, I commenced to making them - finally!!

I must say they were most delicious and well worth the effort. They are quite chewy due to the figs, I'm sure, and had such a delightful buttery crumb crust and topping that is to die for!

As is the usual protocol, I brought the bars into work the next day for my cubemates to enjoy. They are so spoiled that the next day five different people came to my cube to see what treat I may have brought in that day!

It's interesting that after I made these and had one myself, I vaguely remember having these same creations, on occasion, as a dessert with my elementary school lunches. They may have been fig bars but I suspect they were cherry bars. And that, my friends, is the flavor bar I will bake next when I make these again!

Chewy California Fig Bars

Filling

8 oz dried figs
1 C. granulated sugar
1/2 C. hot water
1/2 C. chopped nuts

Crumb Crust and Topping:

1 C. salted butter
1 3/4 C. quick-cooking oats
1 3/4 C. flour
1 C. light brown sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (or 325 if using a glass baking dish). Have ready a 13 x 9-inch metal baking pan or glass dish.

With scissors, cut figs into small pieces. In a medium saucepan, combine the figs, sugar, water, and nuts. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer at medium-high speed, beat the butter, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla until very creamy, 2-3 minutes. With a mixing spoon, stir in the flour and oats until well blended and crumbly. Press two-thirds of this mixture evenly onto the bottom of the ungreased pan. Spread the filling over the top. Crumble the remaining crust mixture over the filling. Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned. Reverse the pan from front to back once during baking. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely before cutting into 6 x 6 rows.

Store in the baking pan, tightly covered with aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
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Monday, January 11, 2010

New Year's Eve Dinner

I'm a little tardy in posting this but I promised I would post the recipes I used for my fabulous New Year's Eve dinner.

I had always wanted to cook a Prime Rib so I decided this would be the year to do it - a final tribute to 2009 and a grand welcoming to 2010. I searched the Internet high and low for the perfect recipe and found it in my own kitchen in Tyler Florence's first recipe book, Real Kitchen: An Indispensable Guide for Anybody Who Likes to Cook, pub. date 2003. The recipe I refer to is Horseradish And Garlic Prime Rib and I must say it is exceptionally delicious.

I did omit the carrots, parsnips and red onion and next time I would probably decrease the sea salt to about 1/4 cup. Other than that, it was absolutely delicious and definitley is something I will cook again. The mushrooms are a perfect addition, as well. To complete the meal, I included Twice Baked Potatoes and Steamed Asparagus.

Prime Rib:

1 (3-rib) prime rib beef roast, about 6 pounds
5 garlic cloves, smashed, plus 2 heads garlic, halved
1/2 cup grated fresh or prepared horseradish
1/2 cup sea salt
1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 parsnips
1 red onion, halved

Wild mushrooms:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds assorted mushrooms, such as cremini, oyster, shiitake, chanterelle, or white, trimmed and sliced
Leaves from 2 fresh thyme sprigs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Cabernet Sauvignon
1/4 cup reserved beef broth (drippings from roast) or low-sodium canned broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lay the beef in a large roasting pan with the bone side down. (The ribs act as a natural roasting rack.) In a small bowl mash together the garlic, horseradish, salt, pepper, and olive oil to make a paste. Massage the paste generously over the entire roast. Scatter the vegetables and halved garlic around the meat and drizzle them with a 2-count of oil. Put the pan in the oven and roast the beef for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours for medium-rare (or approximately 20 minutes per pound). Check the internal temperature of the roast in several places with an instant-read thermometer; it should register 125 degrees F. for medium-rare. Remove the beef to a carving board and let it rest for 20 minutes. The internal temperature of the meat will continue to rise by about 10 degrees. Remove the vegetables and set aside. Pour the pan juices into a fat separator or small bowl and set aside to allow the fat and beef juices to separate. Pour off and discard the fat. You will use the tasty beef juices for the mushrooms.

Place a clean skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and a 2-count drizzle of oil. When the butter starts to foam. add the mushrooms and thyme; and season with salt and pepper. Stir everything together for a few minutes. Add the red wine, stirring to scrape up any stuck bits; then cook and stir to evaporate the alcohol. When the wine is almost all gone, add the reserved beef juices. Let the liquid cook down and then take it off the heat. Stir in the cream and chives, and season with salt and pepper.

As a final course for the evening, I chose Champagne Sorbet. It had been some time since I had made this lucious frozen concoction so I felt it time to do it again! I originally found this recipe in a very old cookbook I had purchased in my hometown of Panama City. It was written by Gay Sudduth and is titled, You're Invited, pub. date 2004.

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups champagne
fresh lemon juice

Boil sugar and water 4-5 minutes (important). Cool. Stir in champagne and juice of one lemon. Freeze. Let it completely freeze over and then cut it with a knife until you can stir it. Cover and stir a couple more times before serving. Serve in small amounts.

As you can see, this was quite a meal and one which I had such fun preparing and then enjoying afterwards! If you have a special occasion coming up, I highly suggest the same menu. You won't be disappointed!
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