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Chocolate and Peanut Butter Layer Cake

26 Jun

As I was looking at my last several posts, I realized y’all must be starving! All we’ve been talking about is sewing and I have been a bad hostess by not offering you something to eat or drink :)

 

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I am going to remedy that today and then some with this decadent chocolate and peanut butter layer cake. I could probably stop with that and give you the recipe and we would be in good shape. However, I will tell you a little more about it so your resistance will be even further weakened.

I made this cake two weeks ago for an employee’s going away party. A little bird told me she liked the chocolate/peanut butter combination so I pulled out this recipe that I had made once or twice before several years ago. Everyone at the office really enjoyed the cake and we ate over half of it at the party (9 of us girls there).

The recipe comes from the cookbook Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes. It is a great cookbook to have in your collection because many of the recipes look like something you would want to try (I have made several so far and all have been delicious).

It starts with sour cream and chocolate cake layers that mix up easily in a single bowl and without an electric mixer if you don’t want to use one. You then fill and frost the layers with a cream cheese peanut butter frosting that reminds me of decadent peanut butter cheesecake — YUM! Finally, you top it with a thick layer of chocolate and peanut butter glaze.

This cake is great because you don’t have to be a professional cake decorator to make it look impressive. And if you keep a decently stocked pantry, you probably already have all the ingredients on hand. Cake for supper? Absolutely!

 

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Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze

  • Servings: one 8-in triple layer cake, serves 16-20 generous slices (the author states 12-16 but I think you can get more out of it because it is so rich)
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 Cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch processed
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare three 8″ round cake pans (I used Baker’s Joy spray, but the recipe suggests buttering the pans then lining with buttered parchment).

Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixer bowl and whisk together to combine. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk by hand or blend with an electric mixer. Gradually beat in the water then blend in the vanilla and vinegar. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well-combined. Divide evenly among the three prepared pans.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes then turn the cakes out on the rack to finish cooling.

To finish the cake, spread 2/3 cup of the frosting between each layer and use the rest to frost the top and sides. You can also save a little to decorate the top after you apply the glaze. Next, spread the glaze over the top, allowing it to drip down the sides. Decorate with remaining frosting, if desired. Enjoy!

Frosting:

  • 10 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2/3 cup smooth peanut butter (not natural type)

Combine cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually blend in the confectioners’ sugar, mixing thoroughly for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Glaze:

  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half

In the top of a double boiler (or in the microwave like I did), combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup and heat until melted and smooth, whisking frequently. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

 

Adapted from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes.

 

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DIY Moon Pies — Totally From Scratch

28 Feb

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Ever since I was a kid, I have associated Mardi Gras primarily with MoonPies — not beads, parades, etc — just the tasty treats with marshmallow sandwiched between two graham cookies and enrobed in chocolate. Yes, there are other flavors of MoonPies, and even more choices in recent years, but I have eyes only for one variety.

From what I have read, our area (Mobile, Alabama), seems to be more fond of the MoonPie because we throw them more at parades than New Orleans does. We even have a giant, light-up MoonPie drop over the city on New Year’s Eve.

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The MoonPie was not created as a Mardi Gras throw, however. In the early 1900s a bakery in Chattanooga, Tennessee, concocted the treat in response to requests from coal miners. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the MoonPie became the preferred throw of revelers. You can read more about the MoonPie’s history here.

I have been going through a big cooking phase lately, and one of my favorite places to get recipes has been magazines — Bon Appetit, Garden and Gun, Food and Wine, etc. When I saw this recipe for DIY MoonPies in a recent Garden and Gun, I knew I had to try it. It would satisfy my sweet tooth and let me try my hand at homemade marshmallow for the first time.

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The recipe is simple although it does involve multiple steps best conducted over a couple of days. It yields a tasty, satisfying treat reminiscent of the holiday classic but without the near stale texture that packaged MoonPies always seem to have. The graham cookie in this recipe is light and tender, the marshmallow sweet and fluffy, and the chocolate rich and silky.

Can you see my reflection in the chocolate? It was so shiny when it was first poured!

Can you see my reflection in the chocolate? It was so shiny when it was first poured!

My only modification from the printed recipe was to cut the cookies with a 2 1/4″ cutter rather than a 3″. This yielded 19 sandwich cookies. The recipe also made a ton of marshmallow so I have scaled down the recipe here for you so you won’t have a ton of leftover fluff.

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I also wanted to make mention of two fabric acquisitions recently added to my stash. The first was a gift from a very special lady who is a blog reader and mother of a sweet little patient. She is from Brazil and brought these fabrics back for me from her recent trip home. Each fabric represents different parts of Brazilian history and is made from very soft cotton. Can’t wait to use these in a project. Thanks, Bruna!

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The next two pieces of fabric were bought on the US Virgin Island, St. John, during my recent cruise. On our way back to the ship, we stopped in a little retail area for a bite to eat. Walking in, I noticed a store called the Fabric Mill. Of course I had to check it out! It was owned by a nice lady from New York City who had studied fashion design but moved to St. John (I am guessing for the weather or when she retired).  The wall behind her register was covered with bolts of beautiful rayon and cotton batiks. I picked up a few yards of my two favorite rayons. She also carried a nice selection of clothing and accessories, and I bought a cute sun hat to shade my pasty white face.

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Homemade MoonPies

Cookie Dough

6  ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
¼  cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
¼  cup cane syrup (I used Alaga)
¼  teaspoon vanilla extract
1½  cups all-purpose flour
1¼  cups graham cracker crumbs, ground fine (approximately 1 whole sleeve of crackers)
¾  teaspoon kosher salt
½  teaspoon baking powder
½  teaspoon baking soda
¼  teaspoon ground cinnamon
2  Tablespoons whole milk

Cream butter, brown sugar, syrup, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 1 minute. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients and whisk to combine.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix on low speed; slowly stream in the milk.

Continue mixing until the dough comes together. Press the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour (I refrigerated mine for a day and let it thaw at room temperature for 30 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Turn out the chilled dough onto a floured surface, then roll it to ¼” thick. Stamp out cookies using a 2- or 3-inch round cookie cutter (yield will depend on size and thickness).

Place cookies 2″ apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool completely.

You can start the marshmallow while the cookies are cooling if you are making it all at one time.

 

Marshmallow

2 3/4 teaspoons powdered gelatin
5 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon water, ice-cold, plus ¼ cup at room temperature
2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
2 Tablespoons honey
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg whites

Sprinkle gelatin over ice-cold water and set aside.

Combine room-temperature water, corn syrup, honey, and sugar in a small pot, insert candy thermometer, and simmer until mixture reaches 240 degrees. When the thermometer reaches 200 degrees—but not before—place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, and whip on high.

Once the sugar mixture hits 240, remove it from the heat, and stir in the bloomed gelatin. Then, while egg whites are whipping, slowly drizzle the hot sugar mixture down the inside of the bowl to avoid spattering the hot syrup. I find this easiest to do using a glass measuring cup with a pour spout (like a Pyrex). Continue whipping for an additional 8-10 minutes, until the mixture stiffens. The mixer bowl will still feel warm to the touch but no longer hot.

Match up the cookies in pairs according to size. Flip over half of the cooled cookies. Lightly coat a spoon with nonstick cooking spray, and spoon approximately a quarter cup of marshmallow onto each flipped cookie (less if you used a smaller cutter). Use the remaining cookies as tops; gently push down until you can see the marshmallow come just to the edge. Chill in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes while making the chocolate coating.

 

Chocolate Coating

1  lb. bittersweet chocolate (61%–70% cacao)
2  tbsp. vegetable oil or canola oil

Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval. Once only a few unmelted chunks remain, remove from microwave and stir until chocolate is smooth. Let it cool slightly and once the chocolate is no longer hot, slowly whisk in the oil in a steady stream. Allow the chocolate to cool for about 5 minutes before proceeding with assembly. Depending on your cookie yield, you can probably get away with 12 ounces of chocolate and 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil. With my 19 two-inch cookies, I had a fair amount of chocolate left over.

 

Assembly

Line a cookie sheet with parchment or foil and place a cooling rack inside. This will allow extra chocolate to drip off the cookies while they set. The lining will make clean up easier. Submerge chilled cookies in the melted chocolate, using a fork to gently lift the sandwiches out of the bowl, scraping excess chocolate on the side of the bowl. Place on cooling rack and let set until shell hardens (several hours in my case). Store in an airtight container.

Adapted from Garden and Gun Feb/Mar 2014.

 

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King Cake Cupcakes and a Winter Weather Bulletin

29 Jan

Hi, friends! I hope you are warm and toasty wherever you are today. Here in the Deep South/Alabama Gulf Coast, we are freezing our little tushies off! It has been quite an adventure with below freezing temps for the past 2 days and various types of wintry precipitation all around (only sleet and ice at our house, sadly). The weather has been so “extreme” by our standards, that most businesses, including my office, have been closed since yesterday afternoon and will remain closed until at least tomorrow.

After this little experience, I cannot start to imagine how people survive in the far northern states where it regularly drops 20-30 degrees below zero during the winter. We Southerners wouldn’t know how to function! I have to admit, I would take 95 degrees and 100% humidity any day of the week.

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Our little house with its dusting of ice/sleet.

But don’t you worry, all this down time has given me the opportunity to sew and bake like crazy. Over the past two weeks, I have baked 4 loaves of bread, 1 batch of dinner rolls, sewn 5 (!!!) garments (more on those to come), and made these delicious King Cake Cupcakes. What else can you do when it is “Snowmageddon” outside? (As sarcastically dubbed by a local radio station in response to the media frenzy.)

Growing up near Mobile, Alabama (the home of Mardi Gras), I have eaten my fair share of King Cakes. I have had cakes shipped in from “authentic” bakeries in New Orleans, local grocery store King Cakes, and even homemade King Cakes (yes, yours, Catherine). I have always been a fan of the yeasty delight reminiscent of cinnamon rolls with cream cheese filling and sweet icing and tri-colored sugar on top. And being the baker that I am, I have never tried to make my own King Cake until now. Boy, am I glad I did! These little delights are tasty! And not that hard to pull off. I will walk you through it below but first a little more history on the King Cake (and if you want to see my other post about Mardi Gras traditions and a delicious drink recipe, click here).

King Cake, as we coastal Southerners know it, first originated in French Louisiana in the 1700s, where it was introduced by colonists from France and Spain. Many European countries still have their own versions of King Cake but it is different from ours. I am only going to highlight the Southern Coastal variety in this post but you can read more about all types of King Cakes in this Wiki article and on the blog, Joe Pastry.

First of all, you are only supposed to make King Cakes after Epiphany (January 6) and before Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). Some people might say it was a sacrilege to make them at other times of the year but many bakeries have started adapting the King Cake idea to other holidays.

The simplest King Cake is cinnamon roll-type dough with sugar glaze icing and purple, green, and yellow sprinkles. Most varieties, though, will have a filling (cream cheese — my favorite, praline, cinnamon, or strawberry). All are topped with some form of glaze and traditionally should have a plastic baby trinket inside. This little baby represents the Baby Jesus and the legend goes that whomever gets the piece of cake with the baby has to buy the next cake. When I was a child, I remember the excitement and anticipation surrounding this little toy that might be hidden in your cake (so you had to eat carefully according to your mom, as not to choke on said baby). Nowadays, though, most places will not put the baby in the cake because of the risk of choking — or should I say the risk of a lawsuit. Instead, the baby will be cradled in some excess icing in the center of the cake.

The recipe I am presenting here is a simple brioche-type dough with a brown sugar studded cream cheese filling. The simple powdered sugar glaze has a hint of citrus to balance the sweetness of the cake. While baking with yeast dough can be intimidating, it really is quite simple if you follow the directions given.

I originally found this recipe on the Garden and Gun blog. I would not recommend following the directions on their website, though, because they are not complete. After a little research, I realized their recipe was just a scaled down version of Emeril’s recipe here, but both are apparently variations of the 1983 Southern Heritage Cakes Cookbook. If you want to reference a source, please use the Food Network recipe, not the one on the Garden and Gun website.

To make the King Cake Cupcakes, you start by mixing up an enriched yeast dough.

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After it has doubled in size, you punch it down then roll it out into a rectangle.

 

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Next, you spread the dough with the softened cream cheese mixture, then roll it up into a log.

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Slice the log into 15 even pieces and place in paper-lined cupcake pans.

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Let the cakes rise one more time,

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Then bake them at 325 for 15-20 minutes.

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Once they are cooled, drizzle the glaze on top and sprinkle with purple, green, and yellow sanding sugar.

 

King Cake Cupcakes

Yield: 15 cupcakes

Dough:

  • 2 ¼ teaspoons yeast
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon, plus ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • ¼ cup warm milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 ounces (or 6 Tablespoons) melted butter

Filling:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Icing:

  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Decorations:

  • Green, purple, and yellow sprinkles or sanding sugar
  • Small baby trinket

Whisk together yeast, 1/4 cup warm water, and 1 teaspoon sugar until the dry ingredients are completely dissolved, then let rest until the yeast is foamy, bubbly, and active, about 5 to 10 minutes. Combine flour, salt, 1/4 cup sugar, nutmeg, and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric stand mixer (or you can also mix by hand). Fit mixer with dough hook attachment, turn on low speed, and add milk, egg yolks, and melted butter, a little at a time, until all ingredients are combined; continue mixing on low about 10 minutes (or knead by hand).

At this time, if the dough has not formed a sticky ball in the bowl, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time, no more than ½ cup total.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixer and let mix again for another 10 minutes. Turn onto an oiled surface and knead by hand into a tidy little ball, 5 minutes or so.  Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until it doubles in size, about 1 to 2 hours. Stretch and roll your dough into a long rectangle, approximately 12″ x 18″.

Combine the filling ingredients and the spread mixture onto the surface of the rectangle. Roll the dough up starting on a short end, and slice into 15 equal medallions.  Place medallions flat side down in lined cupcake tins. Cover, set aside, and let rise again until double, about 30-40 minutes. Bake at 325 for 15 to 20 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Cool completely.

Combine icing ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix until it achieves the desired consistency (adjust with more liquid or more powdered sugar if necessary). You can do this easily with a whisk.

Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cupcakes, hiding a baby trinket or charm inside one of the cupcakes before icing, if desired.  Decorate with Mardi Gras beads or yellow, purple, and green sprinkles.

What We’re Eating — Recipe Round-Up

2 Jul

Mr. Homemaker and I have been contemplating buying/building a new house recently so we’ve been trying to save our pennies.  That means we’ve been eating out a lot less and cooking a lot more.  You’d think I would have a lot more recipe posts for you but on weeknights when we both get home at 6:30 or later and dinner isn’t on the table until 8:30 or later, the last think I want to do is arrange food on a plate in a photogenic fashion and take pictures of it.  I mean, we are starving by that point and I think Mr. Homemaker would bite my hand if I told him he had to wait even 2 minutes for me to snap some shots of his plate! :)

Being an empty nest part of the week, we tend to eat out a lot.  And even with just a party of two, that can get expensive, especially when you aren’t satisfied with the same few restaurants over and over again.  Mr. Homemaker and I knew transitioning to exclusive at-home dining wasn’t going to be easy for us — sure, having a goal helps — but we knew that we would have to keep the menus fresh and interesting to keep us motivated.  So each weekend we sit down with our bi-weekly produce delivery list and come up with a tentative menu and grocery list.  I use the Epicurious and Food Network websites as well as some of my favorite food blogs for inspiration and recipes.  We also try to recreate some of our favorite restaurant dishes at home.

So far I would say we have been pretty successful.  In the past month, we have only eaten out once, and that was just a shared fajitas for one at the cheap Mexican joint. Compare that to our prior habit of dining out 6-7 meals (lunch and/or dinner) per week! We have also enjoyed spending time together in the kitchen getting back into one of our mutual hobbies.  Each meal inspires us to cook up different menus and dishes for the next week.

So since I don’t have time to do an individual post for each recipe that we have enjoyed, I am giving you a recipe round-up and brief review so you can enjoy these dishes, too.  Please feel free to ask questions in the comments and I will do my best to answer them.  And when we make these things again, I will try to takes pictures and add those to this post. I am also giving each recipe my star rating along with my review and suggested modifications.  Total possible stars = 4. None of the photos are my original photos — they are the property of the recipe source.  Click recipe title for source.

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Steak Picadillo Tacos ****

We LOVE these tacos.  We have made them twice now in the span of two weeks.  They are easy and quick to throw together.  We make them exactly as directed (yes, we put in the olives AND raisins), but we do buy a more tender cut of meat since we found the skirt steak to be way too tough on the first round.  We prefer sirloin for this recipe.  It would even be great with left over filet :)  I also use mild Rotel as the regular makes the tacos a bit on the spicy side. We top our tacos with a healthy dollop of sour cream to tame the heat.

 

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Pork Meatball Banh Mi ***

These meatball subs were one of our attempts to keep things interesting in the kitchen.  This recipe is another one that is simple to throw together although some of the ingredients can be harder to find (my local Publix did have some Daikon radish). Matt really enjoyed the pickled carrot and radish topping and has eaten it as a side with other dishes since (the recipe makes more than enough). I am giving it three stars because some of the ingredients can be hard to find but I do love the flavor combination that it creates and I think the meatballs would be good served alone as an appetizer (or even in spaghetti).

 

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Simple Roasted Chicken *****

Did you notice this one got 5 stars? If you check out the recipe link, you will see that it was created by Thomas Keller, one of my favorite chefs.  I have raved previously about one of his other roasted chicken recipes, and since y’all know I don’t discriminate against a roasted chicken (that’s two already on this blog), I had to try this one.  Funny thing is, I didn’t realize this recipe was by Thomas Keller until the day after I made it.  I have now deemed him Dr. Chicken.

But to get to the point, for no more time and ingredients than this involves, you will never put a better piece of chicken in your mouth.  Like shut up and go slap your momma good kind of chicken.  And so easy you just season the chicken with salt and pepper and throw him in the oven in a skillet.  Then when he comes out, slather him with a little butter and maybe a little thyme if you feel like it.  And his skin will be so crispy and his meat will be so juicy.  And not to mention flavorful!  Please, before I ruin my keyboard drooling all over it, just go make this chicken — you can easily do this on even a tired weeknight!

 

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Roasted Potatoes ****

Who doesn’t love garlic roasted potatoes?  Enough said.

 

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Arroz con Pollo ****

I referenced a meal in a prior post that my husband deemed one of the best I had ever cooked — this was it.  I woke up on my day off craving something exotic but comforting and for some reason Arroz con Pollo came to mind.  Now, don’t think Arroz con Pollo is something we ever ate as kids — we didn’t even eat the American version of chicken with white rice.  But I have seen it on menus and have seen recipes enough recently that it sounded just exotic enough and just comforting enough to fit the bill.  And boy did it! The smell in the house was incredible and the process to create it was fun and new — I definitely learned some new techniques while preparing this meal.  And sofrito, the seasoning blend used to flavor the rice, has become a staple for us to make various things such as Spanish rice and stuffed peppers. If you have some kitchen skills, I definitely recommend trying this recipe out — it is well-written and if followed, will yield wonderful, flavorful results.

 

Raspberry Basil Limoncello Cocktail ****

I had a pint of fresh raspberries in the fridge that had gotten a little too soft to eat straight so I went in search of a cocktail recipe.  This one from Bobby Flay was on the top of my to try list and it didn’t disappoint.  The basil is not very strong but does add just a hint of herbal flavor that I found very refreshing. I will definitely be making this one again and maybe it will be a Thirsty Thursday if I can get a photo of it.

 

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Debris Po’Boys ****

So Mr. Homemaker has been craving a New Orleans style roast beef po boy for some time now.  The kind that gets your hands all messy and drips down to your elbows when you eat it.  I don’t know if most people even think of these as po boys because I think most people think of seafood when they think of the traditional New Orleans sandwich.  But nonetheless, the debris po boy is a thing, and a delicious thing at that.  I cooked up a chuck roast according to this recipe then reduced the cooking liquid down to a gravy consistency (had to add a teaspoon or two of cornstarch) to make a delicious meaty mess.  We dressed our sandwiches with mayo and provolone and baby Swiss because that’s how we like them.  I don’t care what any of you Cajun say ;)

 

Skillet Lasagna ***

Who doesn’t love lasagna?  And lasagna that you don’t have to layer and mess up every dish in the kitchen for?  That’s even better! This lasagna is easy to throw together and tastes great.  I substituted ground beef for the Italian sausage just for personal preference.  I found it to run a little dry so I ended up adding the whole second can of tomatoes and then a little more water as it cooked.  I also reduced the cooking heat a little as it seriously stuck to the bottom of the skillet.  Although the one skillet was a cleanup nightmare, the soul-warming meal was worth it and I will definitely make it again.

 

Vinaigrette ****

This is another Thomas Keller recipe that I found while browsing the Epicurious site.  I think this recipe is a great base for creating other flavors but I haven’t really had time to experiment yet.  So far we have just put it on basic green salads seasoned with some salt and freshly ground black pepper.

 

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Chocolate Chip Cookies ****

I had a serious craving for chocolate chip cookies last night but didn’t want to be in the kitchen all night changing out batches in the oven and didn’t want the temptation of eating 3 dozen so this little recipe for 12 cookies was perfect. I added a few toasted pecan pieces and they were divine warm out of the oven!

 

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Mocha Brownies ***

I saw this recipe come up in my blog reader and I was sold on the brownie with frosting.  As a kid my mom always made wonderful brownies but they never had frosting and I always craved brownies with frosting. I guess I now have an unfulfilled desire for frosted brownies because I make/eat them when I can. These brownies were decadent and tasty and the girls in my office RAVED about them. I found the brownie base to be a little bland to stand alone but with the frosting it is just fine (if you are going to make it without frosting, I would add a little salt or vanilla).  My issue was with the frosting.  The recipe calls for too much water.  At the ratio given, the butter separates out and curdles.  I think the recipe should call for 1/2 to 3/4 of the amount of water listed and next time I will stop at that.  Because I wanted to follow the recipe as written (I am a rule follower), I added all the water and I regretted it.  I ended up adding more sugar, butter, and cocoa trying to get the butter to re-emulsify.  I got it to be palatable (based on compliments), but I wasn’t please with the grainy appearance of the frosting.  I will definitely remember this next time I make this recipe.

 

New York Cheesecake ****

I made this for the Fathers’ Day dinner at my parents’ house. All but 2 slices were eaten that night and everyone said it was the best cheesecake that had ever had — better than New York City’s itself.  I think that’s enough explanation!

 

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Vanilla Cupcakes ***

Since I was worried the kids wouldn’t want to eat cheesecake, I also took cupcakes to our Fathers’ Day dinner.  I have made this recipe before and it is a moist and tender cake with a good vanilla flavor.  My only gripe with it in cupcake format is that it doesn’t crown well and it pulls away from the cupcake wrappers.  My suggestion is to fill the cupcake papers closer to 3/4 full and this will help keep them from pulling away. If you are looking for a good basic vanilla cake, though, this is it. I omitted the vanilla bean and doubled the extract.

 

I hope you have enjoyed my little recipe round-up here.  Let me know if you try any of these recipes or if you have any suggestions for tasty new recipes to try out!

 

 

 

 

Thirsty Thursdays — Coffee Punch

31 Jan

Don’t forget to enter my One Year Blogiversary Giveaway!  The giveaway will end tonight at midnight CST.  Click here to leave a comment on the giveaway post and be entered to win a free Craftsy class of your choice!!!

 

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Let’s just start out by saying that I warned you — this punch is going to rock your world.  Coffee drinkers and non-coffee drinkers alike will beg you to make this again and again.  Honestly, the only people who aren’t going to like this punch are the ones who aren’t breathing.  So go ahead and make a batch.  Don’t have an excuse to make a 2 gallon bowl of punch?  I’ll give you a scaled down version, too.  Just because I’m nice like that :)

I’ve been making this punch for almost 10 years and it is a favorite at baby/bridal showers and family gatherings.  It is cold, creamy, sweet, and has a hint of coffee.  I don’t like coffee but I can drink this punch all day long.  There’s ice cream floating in it.  Need I say more?

 

 

 

 

 

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Coffee Punch

Makes about 2 gallons

2 cups water

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup instant coffee

1 gallon whole milk

1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream, slightly softened

1/2 gallon chocolate ice cream, slightly softened

In a large glass measuring cup combine the water and sugar.  Heat on high in the microwave in 60 second intervals until all the sugar has completely dissolved.  Stir in the instant coffee and set aside to cool to room temperature.  At this point you can refrigerate the coffee syrup for later use if you are prepping for a party.

Pour the coffee syrup into a large punch bowl.  Stir in the milk.  Scoop in the vanilla and chocolate ice cream then stir to combine.  Continue to stir occasionally as the ice cream will start to melt into the punch.  YUM!!!

 

Coffee Punch for Two

1 ounce water

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee

1 cup whole milk

1/2 cup vanilla ice cream, slightly softened

1/2 cup chocolate ice cream, slightly softened

Follow the instructions above to combine water, sugar, instant coffee, and milk.  Pour mixture into blender and add ice cream.  Blend until smooth.  Alternately, you can stir mixture and ice cream together in a glass for a less smooth texture.  Enjoy :)

 

 

 

 

Perfectly Easy Pavlova and a Blogiversary!

23 Jan

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How many of you sewers out there were thinking I had gotten my hands on a copy of Cake Pattern’s newest release, the Pavlova wrap top and skirt, before it officially hits the market?  Sorry, no such luck.  But I did make you this tasty edible version of the Australian dessert that starts with a light meringue shell, gets filled with airy, sweetened whipped cream, and then topped with your choice of seasonal fresh fruits.

It’s also a celebratory dessert to commemorate my 1 year blogging anniversary!  In one year’s time, I have written 45 posts, gathered 98 (wordpress + google reader) followers, received 176 comments, and gotten 8458 hits.  That’s not too bad!  I’ll be announcing a giveaway tomorrow in honor of the special event, so stay tuned!  But until then, feast your eyes on this lovely and refreshing dessert :)

 

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I even made some mini ones to share.  Do you think they look like funny little faces?  This recipe looks complicated but it is as simple as can be.  My sister first introduced me to it several years ago and we have been making it regularly since.  If you have a few basic ingredients and an electric mixer, you can wow your friends and loved ones with this sure-to-please confection.

I have used strawberries, kiwi, and blueberries here because they happened to come in my produce box for the week, but you can use your favorite complimenting fruits — peaches, nectarines, raspberries, blackberries, etc.

 

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So, first you are going to beat your room temperature egg whites until they are stiff and glossy like so.  Can you see my reflection in these?

 

 

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The bottom row has been smoothed.

 

 

If you choose to make the cupcakes, one batch makes about 2 dozen regular size cupcakes.  This time around I just used a spoon to fill the paper cups then smoothed the tops with a wet metal tablespoon (this is a great kitchen trick for meringue).  If I am being fancy, I will use my piping tools to make mini meringue nests on parchment and forego the cupcake papers and tin.

 

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For the large pie, trace a 9″ circle onto parchment paper, flip the paper over and place it on a baking tray, then spread the meringue on top.  Use the spoon to spread it into the circle and smooth the top with the wet spoon.

 

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I spooned the whipped cream on top for the full-size Pavlova, but for the mini ones I piped the whipped cream on with a pastry bag and large closed star tip.  As for the fruit, you can make it as decorative (or not) as you would like.  It will taste great either way!

 

Pavlova

Serves 8 as pie or 24 cupcakes (you can’t eat just 1!)

1/2 cup egg whites, at room temperature (from about 4 eggs)
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
2 kiwi fruits, peeled and thinly sliced or 1 cup of another ripe fruit, such as peaches or nectarines
10 strawberries, green parts trimmed off, thinly sliced or other berries, such as raspberries or blackberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or using a hand mixer), whip the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt in a clean, dry bowl until foamy. Add the granulated sugar, cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla and continue whipping until stiff, smooth and glossy, about 8 minutes more. On a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit a sheet pan, use a pencil to draw or trace a circle 9-inches in diameter. Line the sheet pan with the parchment, pencil side down (you should still be able to see the circle). Spoon the egg whites into the circle, using the back of the spoon to smooth the top and sides of the disk (use a wet spoon for best results). Bake in the center of the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake until the meringue has puffed up and cracked on the top and the surface is lightly browned to the color of cafe au lait, about 45 minutes more. Turn off the oven, prop the oven door open, and let the Pavlova cool in the oven at least 30 minutes, to room temperature. This ensures a gradual cooling, which protects the delicate meringue.

Whip the cream and brown sugar together until stiff. Spoon it in the center of the cooled Pavlova and spread out to within 1/2-inch of the edge. Arrange the slices of kiwi around the edge. Arrange the slices of strawberry in the middle. To serve, slice into wedges with a serrated knife.

 

Recipe by Gale Gand, courtesy of the Food Network.

 

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Best Ever Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

10 Oct

It’s been a while since I’ve given you a recipe for something sweet.  I won’t hold out on you any longer.  I don’t know if you’ve ever made homemade ice cream before, but it is one of my favorite food memories from childhood.  It was always exciting to come in from playing outside all day and hear the groaning of the ice cream freezer’s motor — wondering what flavor my mom would’ve made for us.  It also frequently meant that we would have company over to enjoy it with us, something else that I enjoyed as a child (and still do!).  While my mom’s specialties included black walnut, banana, strawberry — it was the vanilla that was always my favorite.  And while this recipe directs you to freeze your ice cream completely firm before eating it, we loved eating the soft treat immediately from the ice cream maker.

Do you have memories of homemade ice cream from childhood?  Do you make homemade ice cream now with your children?  If you don’t have the equipment, I suggest adding it to your Christmas list so you can be ready when spring rolls around (not that I don’t make ice cream in the winter ;) ).

Now for the reasons I love this recipe.  First, the flavor is over the top.  The addition of vanilla bean and vanilla extract ensures that your taste buds will be delighted.  It is like Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla but SOOOOOO much better.  Next, the inclusion of a small amount of corn syrup keeps the ice cream soft even when completely frozen.  This means it scoops easier, no microwave zaps required.  Finally, the use of egg yolks to make a custard base creates a rich, smooth, and creamy ice cream that is perfect on its own but would also be a good base for some homemade caramel or hot fudge sauce.  And yes, I think this is better than the vanilla ice cream recipe in The Perfect Scoop.

So what are you waiting for?  Whip up a batch now and enjoy a scoop!

 

Vanilla Ice Cream

1 vanilla bean

1 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream

1 1/4 cups whole milk

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

1/3 cup light corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 large egg yolks

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

 

Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise.  With the tip of a paring knife, scrape out the seeds.  In a medium saucepan, combine the vanilla bean, vanilla seeds, whipping cream, milk, 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, corn syrup, and salt.  Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is steaming steadily, 5 to 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl of ice with a small amount of water in it.  Place a small bowl in the ice and set a strainer on top.  You will pour your ice cream custard into this ice bath to stop the cooking process.

Whisk the remaining sugar into the egg yolks in a small bowl.  When the cream mixture is hot, transfer 1/4 cup into the egg yolks and stir constantly to combine.  Transfer a little bit more cream into the yolks, stirring constantly.  This will temper the egg yolks to keep them from scrambling.  Now, pour the egg yolks into the pan of cream and return to the stove over medium-low heat.  Stir constantly until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon (it will register 180 degrees F on a candy thermometer).  Remove from the heat and pour through the strainer into the small bowl in the ice bath.  Stir in the vanilla extract and return the vanilla bean to the mixture.

Once the mixture stops steaming (about 10-20 minutes), transfer the bowl to the fridge to chill completely (at least 4 hours).  Once chilled, freeze the mixture in your ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  When the freezer is done, transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container and freeze until firm (or eat it right away!).

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated via Dishing the Divine.

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