Turtle Pretzels

I love holiday baking.  Each year, I make a list of items that I plan to make - some old and some new.  I enjoy sharing these treats with family and friends.  Of course, Jim Bob and I enjoy our fair share as well.  My holiday baking repertoire always includes turtle pretzels.  I learned how to make these a few years ago from a friend in Aiken.  They're extremely easy to make and easy to eat - the perfect combination!     

Turtle Pretzels

Turtle Pretzels


1 bag Rolo candy, unwrapped
small pretzels
pecan halves


Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Layer pretzels on baking sheet.  (I line my sheet with a baking mat to make for easier removal.)  Top each pretzel with a Rolo.  Place baking sheet in the oven for 3-5 minutes.  Keep an eye on the Rolos.  The turtles are ready when the chocolate glistens and looks like it's about to melt.  It is best to remove the turtles before the Rolos begin to melt completely.  As soon as you remove the turtles from the oven, press a pretzel half on top of each Rolo.  Leave the turtles on the baking sheet until they have cooled.

Source:  Jamie Raynor, Aiken 


Christmas 2010

Friends 2010
Jesse, Michelle, Kathleen, Amy, Jenny, and Callie Rae
Since I moved back to Tuscaloosa, God has blessed me with a wonderful group of girlfriends.  For Christmas, Amy and Ryan hosted a dinner for all of us and our spouses.  We each contributed to the meal, and when it all came together, it was quite an impressive spread.


I volunteered to make the dessert (I know you're surprised).  After much debate, I settled on white chocolate bread pudding.  Jonathan used to work at The Globe where they served an amazing version of white chocolate bread pudding.  In honor of our Christmas get-together, he shared the recipe with me.

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

22 oz., good quality white chocolate (I used Peterbrooke chocolate.  Be sure that you're chocolate contains cocoa butter in the ingredients.)
1 quart cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
15 egg yolks
White bread, enough to fill 9x13 pan (I used 1 1/2 loaves of Challah bread from the Publix deli.  I cut all of the crust off.)

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
6 Tbs. melted butter

Cut off crusts of bread and line 13x9 pan.  Fill to the top.

Melt chocolate in double boiler.  Be sure to use a double boiler because white chocolate burns very easily.

Scald vanilla and cream.  Whisk egg and sugar in separate bowl until pale yellow.  Temper eggs with hot cream (slowly blend vanilla/cream mixture into egg mixture so it gradually heats eggs; whisk constantly).  Add melted white chocolate.  Mix well. Pour liquid on top of bread.

Mix graham crackers crumbs, brown sugar, cocoa powder, and butter in bowl.  Sprinkle on top of bread mixture.

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.  Refrigerate for at least 8 hours.  When you're ready to serve the dessert, reheat in the oven.

Source:  adapted by Elliott Davis, originally from Jonathan James - executive chef at The Globe


Gameday Chili

This was my view for every Alabama home football game for the 2010 season.  Jim Bob and I spent most of our Saturdays this fall working with our friends at their game day tent.  The Tide went 9-3 during the regular season.  We're awaiting our Bowl bid, but it looks like we may end up in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando or in the Outback Bowl in Tampa.  Roll Tide Roll!


For the last game of the season, the temperature was in the 40's with a stiff wind.  In other words, perfect chili weather.  My favorite chili recipe is pretty basic.  The addition of Ranch Style Beans, however, makes this version a little more interesting.   Ranch Style Beans are pinto beans with a blend of spices giving it a southwestern flair.  Whether you like your chili with fritos, sour cream, shredded cheese, or topped on a hot dog, this recipe is sure to please.   


Gameday Chili

2 cans tomato sauce
2 cans tomatoes, diced
2 cans beans (I use 1 can Ranch style beans and 1 can pinto beans)
1-1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 Tbsp. parsley
1 1/2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic, minced

In medium frying pan, brown ground beef.  When almost completely browned, add onion and sauté 5-7 minutes, or until tender.  Add garlic and sauté another minute.  Drain grease.  Add all other ingredients.  Cook and simmer.  I combine all the ingredients in a slow cooker and simmer.

Source:  Momma Moe 


Pumpkin Cream Pie


I'm not a fan of pumpkin pie.  It's a texture thing (custard, blech!).  I do, however, love the flavor of pumpkin pie.  When I came across Pioneer Woman's Pumpkin Cream Pie, I knew it would be delicious.  This pie has all of the pumpkin spice that I love, and none of the thick custard.  I added a layer of homemade whipped cream to give it that final touch.


Pumpkin Cream Pie


1-1/2 package graham crackers (about 15 cookie sheets)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 stick butter, melted

1 box (3 oz.) vanilla pudding (cook and serve variety)
1 cup half and half
1/2 cups heavy cream
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
2 Tablespoons whiskey 
1/2 cups (plus 3 tablespoons) pumpkin puree
1/2 cups (additional) heavy cream
2 tablespoons brown sugar
extra graham cracker crumbs, for garnish


Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  

Grind graham crackers in a food processor.  Add powdered sugar and melted butter and process until totally combined.  Press into the bottom and sides of a pie pan until nice and firm.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until warm and "set."  Remove from oven and allow crust to cool completely.

In a medium saucepan, mix dry pudding mix with half-and-half and cream.  Add spices.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is bubbly and thick.  Remove from heat and stir in whiskey, if using.  Add pumpkin and stir to combine.  Place lid on pot and set aside to cool.  When cool enough, place pot in the fridge to cool completely. 

When mixture is cool.  remove from the fridge.  In a mixing bowl, add 1/2 cup heavy cream and brown sugar.  Beat until very light and fluffy.  Fold in pumpkin cream mixture until combined.  Pour into cooled crust.  

Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight.  Serve with graham crackers crumbled on top.

Source:  Pioneer Woman


Green Beans

Green beans might be my favorite vegetable.  I know, it's not very exciting, but they're so good.  Green beans have been a staple at my house since I was a kid.  In fact, it was probably the first vegetable I learned how to cook.  I can remember helping my mom snap off the ends of the beans.  It was a very important job,or at least, mom made me feel like it was.  

This recipe combines green beans, sweet onions, and smoky bacon for the perfect comfort dish.   

Green Beans
1 pound fresh green beans (I rarely weigh the beans.  I usually estimate by the handful.)
6 slices fried bacon
1/2 onion, sliced

Snap or cut off ends of green beans. Bring large pot of water to boil.  When the water is at a rolling boil, add the beans.  Boil uncovered for 3-5 minutes.  Taste test for doneness.  The beans are done when they are cooked all the way through, but still have a slight crunch.  Drain water out of pot, and add cold water into pan until the beans are covered.  Drain again, and transfer beans to an ice bath.  The faster you chill the beans, the greener and crisper they will remain.  

Meanwhile, fry  the bacon in a frying pan.  Transfer cooked bacon to a plate. Discard almost all of the bacon grease.  Leave just enough to coat the bottom of the pan.  Add chopped onion to frying pan and saute until tender.  Add green beans to frying pan.  Crumble bacon into pan, and toss.  Remove from heat and serve immediately.  

Source:  Momma Moe 


White Chocolate Pumpkin Blondies


White Chocolate Pumpkin Blondies


Blondie base:
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup white chocolate, chopped finely
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup heaping cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1/3 cup white chocolate chunks or chips

Pumpkin top:
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
1 heaping tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Grease a 9x9 inch pan with baking spray.  Preheat oven to 350F.  

For blondie base, melt white chocolate and butter together in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently.  White chocolate does not melt as smooth and pretty as dark or milk chocolate.  Set aside to cool.  Using a stand mixer, beat together sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth on medium speed.  Add the cooled chocolate mixture and continue to beat until well-combined.  Add flour and salt to batter, and mix on low speed until combined.  Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan.  Sprinkle white chocolate chips evenly over the top of the blondie batter.  Set aside.

For the pumpkin top, using a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add eggs and vanilla and continue beating until well-combined.  Add the pumpkin and beat until thoroughly combined.  Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and spiced to the pumpkin mixture, mixing until well-combined.  Pour pumpkin top evenly (do the best you can) over the blondie layer in the prepared pan.  Bake for 30-34 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with only crumbs, not batter, on it.  

Remove from oven and cool on rack for 1 hour.  Drizzle melted white chocolate on top. 

Source:  Culinary Concoctions by Peabody; originally adapated from Fat Witch Brownies by Patricia Helding with Bryna Levin

Hot Bacon Cheese Dip

I'm always on a quest to find the next football food for our Saturday game-watching get-togethers.  If you've tried the Buffalo Chicken Dip, then you know, I'm looking for delicious, indulgent recipes to enjoy while we cheer on the Tide.  This Hot Bacon Dip definitely meets this criteria.  It's a nice change from the spicy flavor of queso and buffalo dip.  As usual, this dip is great with Fritos or Ritz crackers.


Hot Bacon Cheese Dip

1 unsliced round loaf bread
2 cups (8 oz.) Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 cup ( 4 oz.) Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely diced onion
7 strips of bacon, diced and fried
1 clove garlic, diced
1/4 tsp. crushed red chili flakes

Preheat oven to 350.  Slice quarter top of round loaf off, and set aside.  Carefully hollow out the inside of the bread bowl, leaving a one inch shell.  Cube the bread and reserve to serve with the dip.
Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl, spoon into bread bowl.  Place on ungreased baking sheet, and cover with reserved quarter top of round loaf to prevent the dip from becoming too brown while baking.  Bake for 45 minutes, or until heated through.

Serve with bread cubes, crackers, or Fritos (my personal preference).


Source:  Buns In My Oven


Pot Roast

I've always made pot roast in a crock pot.  It's delicious prepared in a slow cooker, but this weekend I wanted roast and carrots and found myself without a slow cooker.  Cooking a roast in the oven is much easier than I expected, and I really love Pioneer Woman's recipe listed below.  I especially enjoyed the carrots.  I didn't peel them; I just cut them into large chunks and dropped them into the pot.  Also, a note to all of you who don't care for onions - don't skip the onions in this recipe.  They're vital to the flavor! 


Pot Roast

1 whole chuck roast (4-5 lbs.)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 whole Onions (I used 1/2.)
6 whole carrots
Salt to taste
Pepper to Taste
1 cup red wine
2 cups to 3 cups beef stock
3 sprigs fresh thyme (I used 1/4 teaspoon dried ground thyme.)
3 sprigs fresh rosemary (I used 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary.)


Generously salt and pepper the chuck roast.  Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Then add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil.

Cut onions in half (I cut mine into wedges).  Cut carrots into 2-inch slices (you can peel them, but you don't have to).  When the oil in the post is very hot (but not smoking), add in the onions, browning them on all sides.  Remove the onions to a plate.

Throw the carrots into the same very hot pan and toss them around a bit until slightly browned, about a minute or so.

If needed, add a bit more olive oil to the very hot pan.  Place the meat in the pan and sear for about a minute on all sides until it is nice and brown all over.  Remove the roast to a plate.

With the burner still on high, use either red wine or beef broth (about 1 cup) to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a whisk.  When the bottom of the pan is sufficiently deglazed, place the roast back into the pand and add enough beef stock to cover the meat halfway (about 2-3 cups).  Add in the onions and carrots, as well as the rosemary and thyme.

Put the lid on, then roast in a 275F oven for 4 hours. 

Source:  Pioneer Woman


Baked Potato Soup

We have finally had our first cold snap of the season! I love cold weather, or rather, I love the changing of seasons.  (I love hot weather when it's been cold for months.)  Cold weather means knee high boots, turtlenecks, chunky sweaters, hot chocolate, and soup. 

I love soup, but it's not something I make at home very often because JB is so picky.  I've bookmarked a lot of soup recipes over the last few months, but I knew I finally found one he would like when I came across this Baked Potato Soup.  This recipe is a little different than most that I've found, because it calls for the potatoes to be baked instead of boiled.  The creamy potato broth with the addition of cheese, bacon, and sour cream makes for the perfect combination.  It was definitely a big hit with JB. 


Baked Potato Soup

4-5 russet potatoes
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
6 cups 2% milk (I used 1%)
2 teaspoons salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/3 - 1/2 cup light sour cream 

For topping:
Sour cream
Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped green onions
Bacon pieces

Preheat oven to 400.  Prick potatoes with the tines of a fork.  Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour.  Remove from the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle.  Scoop the insides of the potatoes into food processor, discarding the peels.  Pulse until the pieces are broken into small chunks.  (I just used a potato masher to break up the potatoes.)
In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, melt the butter.  Add 1/4 cup of flour to the pot and whisk into the butter.  Cook, whisking constantly, until golden brown, about 2 minutes.  Whisk in the milk and the rest of the flour.  Cook until thick and bubbling, about 6-8 minutes.  Mix in the potato chunks.  Whisk in the salt, pepper, and cheddar cheese and stir until the cheese is melted.  Remove from the heat, stir in the green onions and sour cream.  


Caramel Apples

Caramel Apples

4-6 apples
1 bag caramels (10-14 oz.)
2 Tablespoons milk
Popsicle sticks
Toppings such as sprinkles, chopped nuts, mini chocolate chips

Wash and dry apples.  It's important that the apples are completely dry, or the caramel will not stick to the apples.  The apples should also be at room temperature.  Place each topping on a small plate.  Unwrap caramels and place them in a small saucepan.  Add milk.  Heat caramel on medium heat until completely melted and smooth.  Dip apples in caramel and spin the apple as you pull it out of the pan.  Roll apple in topping of choice.  Set on wax paper while it dries.  You can put the apples in the refrigerator once you've dipped them in the caramel to help them dry more quickly, but you should store them at room temperature.

Source:  Busy Bee Crafts

Easy Apple Cake

 I love the changing of seasons for so many reasons.  I love fall because it means fresh apples.  I recently visited family in North Georgia and had an opportunity to pick up some fresh picked apples from a farmer's stand.  I picked out an assortment of apples - gala, jonagold, rome, fuji.  I was so excited about picking out apples, I probably ended up with 10 pounds!  I wanted to be sure I had plenty of apples for all of the apple recipes I've collected. 

The first apple recipe I chose was an apple cake.  This cake could, quite possibly, be the best cake I've ever made.  Well, maybe not THE best.  I sure do love the Apple Dapple Cake (look for that post next week) and the Banana Caramel Cake (another post to come soon).  But it was really delicious.  It's one of those made-a-cake-for-no-reason cakes.  I particularly like this cake because it has dried dates and chopped walnuts in it.  These ingredients could both be omitted, but I think they make this cake interesting.  I tried a piece of this cake right after it came out of the oven, and it was delicious.  The next morning it was even better!


Easy Apple Cake

3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups oil
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups diced apples
1 cup chopped dates rolled in flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350.  In medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and cinnamon with a wire whisk and set aside.  Combine sugar and oil using a mixer until blended.  Add eggs and vanilla, mix until combined.  Add flour mixture and mix well.  Stir in nuts, dates, and apples.  The batter will be very thick.  Pour into a greased and floured 9x13 pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until done.

Cool cake and using a skewer, poke holes in cake.  Cook topping ingredients on stove until mixture bubbles.  Pour topping over cake letting some seep into the cake.  (I used about 2/3 of the topping.)

Source:  www.bakerella.com

Mini Chocolate Cupcakes w/ Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Do you remember this nursery rhyme?

Rub-a-dub-dub, three maids in a tub,
And who do you think were there?
The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker,
And all of them gone to the fair.


For Halloween 2010, my friends and I dressed up as The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker, and Yours Truly went as The Baker.  I was so excited to have an excuse to wear one of those floppy baker hats!  Of course, every good baker (real or not) must have yummy treats for people to sample.  I made mini chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting.

 One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons safflower oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350.  Line muffin tins with paper liners; set aside.  Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.  Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla, and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes.  
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full.  Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack; let cook completely.

Quick Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream (I used milk.)

In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter.  Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.  Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on memdium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

Source:  Cupcakes:  Martha Stewart.com
               Frosting:  www.foodnetwork.com

"Easy Like Sunday Morning" Breakfast Casserole

I love breakfast casserole, and this version is "Easy Like Sunday Morning".  You could easily swap out ingredients and experiment with bacon, different types of cheese, or add chopped veggies.  The possibilities are endless!  I kept this version simple for my house guests, but it was delicious.   


"Easy Like Sunday Morning" Breakfast Casserole
1 loaf crusty French bread, torn into pieces (I used white sandwich bread.)
6 eggs (I used 8 eggs.)
1/4 cup milk
8 oz. sausage, browned and drained
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated (I used Monterey Jack and cheddar.)
Spices (I used ground mustard, garlic powder, and pepper.)

Preheat oven to 350 and grease baking pan.  Place bread in pan and distribute evenly.  Beat eggs, milk, and spices; pour over bread.  Add remaining ingredients (sausage and cheese) and bake for 25 minutes or until top is golden brown.  Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Source:  Trader Joe's


Teriyaki Mahi and a Confession


I have a confession to make.  When we eat dinner at home, we rarely eat on real plates.  It's almost always paper plates for us.  In fact, the last time we had friends over for dinner, we ate on paper plates.  The truth is, I love to cook, but I despise cleaning the kitchen.  The rule in our family is that if I do the cooking, someone else has to do the cleaning.  

As I've mentioned before, Jim Bob and I are trying to include more fish in our diet.  Mahi is a white, sweet, moderately dense fish.  It's easily baked, sauteed, or can be carefully grilled.  Marinades are easy to find online, but listed below is the one I decided on.

Teriyaki Mahi

2 - 4 oz. mahi filets (wild, never frozen is always best)
2 tablespoons olive oil (original recipe called for butter)
2 tsp. minced garlic, divided (1 tsp. for marinade, 1 tsp. for sauteing)
1 Tablespoon teriyaki sauce
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
(original recipe called for 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds - I omitted.)

Mix all ingredients together, then place fish filets in ziploc bag with marinade.  Marinate at least 30 minutes (we marinated for 1 1/2 hours).  Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in pan at medium heat.  Add 1 tsp. minced garlic, and saute.  Add fish, saute 4-5 minutes on each side, basting with marinade.

Source:  Go Hawaii


Baked Ziti

We've tried several baked ziti recipes over the years, and we have finally settled on a winner.  In fact, Jim Bob was so eager to test it out that I missed a decent picture for my blog.  Trust me, this recipe is worth the few extra steps.  Some of the recipes we've tried have been dry or bland, but this recipe is the perfect balance of sauce, cheese, and pasta.  I found the recipe on Annie's Eats, but I made a few changes which I've noted below.


Baked Ziti

1 cup sour cream (original recipe called for 16 oz. whole milk or 1% cottage cheese)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 oz. grated Parmesan Cheese (about 1 1/2 cups), divided
Table salt
1 lb. ziti
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lb. ground beef (original recipe called for 20 oz. turkey Italian sausage) 
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
5 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 jar Bertoli tomato basil sauce (original recipe called for 1 (28 oz.) can of tomato sauce and 1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil leaves, divided
1 tsp. sugar
Ground black pepper
3/4 tsp. cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz. mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk sour cream, eggs, and 1 cup Parmesan together in a medium bowl; set aside.  Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta; cook until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5-7 minutes.  Drain the pasta and leave in colander.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in skilled over medium heat.  Cook until nearly browned.  Add in the onion and garlic and continue to cook until the onion is softened and the beef is completely browned.  Stir in the tomato sauce and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.  Off the heat, stir in 1/2 cup basil and sugar, and season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl stir together the cornstarch and heavy cream.  Transfer the mixture to the now-empty stockpot over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3-4 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat and add the sour cream mixture, 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce adn 3/4 cup mozzarella.  Stir to combine.  Add the pasta and toss to coat thoroughly with the sauce.

Transfer the pasta to a 9x13 inch baking dish and spread the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the top.  Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan over the top.  Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the foil from the pan and continue to bake until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer.  Cool for 20 minutes.  Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons basil and serve.

Source:  Annie's Eats; origninally from Cook's Illustrated, March & April 2009


Coconut Cream Pie


I've never been a big fan of coconut desserts. Coconut is usually chewy in an annoying way, and it's dry.  No thanks.  But for his birthday, a family member requested a coconut cream pie.  I considered a lot of different recipes, but I finally settled on Martha Stewart's Coconut Cream Pie recipe.  Martha uses dried coconut as a garnish, not in the filling. The flavor of the coconut comes from coconut milk in this recipe.  There's also a nice addition with a thin layer of chocolate between the crust and the custard coconut filling reminiscent of an Almond Joy.  I was pleasantly surprised by this pie, and coconut has been promoted in my book. 

Coconut Cream Pie
Makes one 9 inch pie

1 large egg, lightly beat, plus 4 large egg yolks
3 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
2/3 cup sugar
5 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 recipe Pate Brisee (click here for recipe)

Preheat oven to 375.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to a 12-inch round, a bit less than 1/4 inch thick.  Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate.  Using kitchen shears or a sharp knife, trim crust to a 1/2-inch overhang all around.  Fold under overhand so it extends slightly beyond edge of pie plate.  Crimp edge as desired.  Prick dough all over with a fork.  Brush rim of dough with a beaten egg.  Chill pie shell until firm, about 30 minutes.

Line chilled pie shell with a round of parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang.  Fill with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake until edges of crust just turn golden, 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove parchment and pie weights.  Return crust to oven, and continue baking until golden all over 15 to 20 minutes more.  Place pie shell on a wire rack to cool completely.  Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Prepare an ice bath; set aside.  In a bowl, lightly whisk egg yolks; set aside.  In a saucepan, whisk together coconut milk, granulated sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  Bring to a simmer (do not boil), and cook, whisking constantly, 3 to 4 minutes.

Whisk a quarter of hot-milk mixture (about 1 cup)into egg yolks; whisk in remaining milk mixture.  Strain into a clean saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until custard is thick and bubbles appear in center, 2 to 3 minutes.  Transfer to a medium bowl, and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto surface to prevent a skin from forming.  Set in ice bath until completely chilled, 30 to 35 minutes.  (Filling can be kept in refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, up to 1 day.)

Melt chocolate in the top of a double broiler or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, or melt in the microwave.  Stir until smooth, and set aside until cool to touch, stirring occasionally.

Using a pastry brush, coat the inside of cooled crust with melted chocolate.  Place in refregerator or freezer until firm to touch, about 10 minutes.

Fill crust with coconut custard, spreading evenly.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine cream and cofectioners' sugar; beat until soft peaks form.  Spread whipped cream on top of custard.  Refrigerate pie at least 3 hours before serving.  Garnish with toasted coconut and chocolate shavings just before serving.


Source:  Martha Stewart



Mumford and Sons


Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting


 I've never been a big fan of pumpkin, but when a friend asked for a pumpkin-inspired dessert, this seemed like a great compromise.  These cupcakes are wonderful, and the maple cream cheese is perfect.     

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields:  32 cupcakes

4 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I used 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (I omitted.)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin (not pie filling)

Preheat oven to 350.  Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.  Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.  With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and brown sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down the sides of bowl as needed.  Reduce speed to low.  Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and beating until just combined.  Add pumpkin; beat until just combined.
Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full.  Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes.  Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 10 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely.  Cupcakes can be refrigerated up to 3 days in airtight containers.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup (I used more.)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners' sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth.  Add maple syrup, vanilla, and confections' sugar; continue beating until well combined and smooth.


Source:  MarthaStewart.com, as seen on Brown Eyed Baker


Homemade Popcorn

Popcorn 2 

When I was a kid, we used to pop popcorn in an air popper like this one.  It was such a treat.  I loved to pour in the corn and watch it pop.  As the bowl filled with popcorn, I would turn it to make sure that it was evenly distributed.  There was a small silver tray on the top where you put half a stick of butter.  The heat from the popping made the butter melt.  

In recent years, I've always opted for microwave popcorn.  It didn't occur to me until recently to pop my own popcorn until I read a post on Brown-Eyed Baker's blog.  Jim Bob and I caught up on our dvr'd television shows on Sunday afternoon.  I popped a bowl of popcorn to munch on.  It's really easy to make yourself, and I definitely recommend it.  

Homemade Popcorn
3 tablespoons oil (I used canola)
1/2 salt (I used 3/4 tsp. sea salt)
1/2 cup popping corn (I used this kind.) 
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Measure corn, salt, and oil into heavy-bottom pan.  Cover and turn heat to medium.  Leave lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape.  When popping slows, remove pan from heat.  Transfer popcorn to serving bowl.  Melt butter in microwave, and drizzle over popped popcorn.  Toss and serve.

Source:  Orville Redenbacher's Original Popping Corn jar label

Popcorn 1

Grilled Tuna Steaks


Publix recently had wild, never-frozen yellowfin tuna steaks on sale.  The tuna was $6.99 a pound, and apparently, that was a really great deal.  For some reason, I've always been intimidated to try grilling tuna steaks, but this was a deal I couldn't pass up.  They were great, and Jim Bob and I really loved them. 

Grilling tuna steaks is similar to grilling steaks.  They do best to marinate them for short amounts of time.  We marinated for 30-45 minutes.  You can eat them rare, medium, or well-done. 

Grilled Tuna Steak
4 - 4 oz. tuna steaks
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon chopped oregano
1/2 teaspoon group black pepper

Combine all instructions and marinate tuna steaks, covered in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  Preheat grill for high heat.  Lightly oil grate.  Cook the tuna steaks for 5 to 6 minutes, then turn steaks, baste with marinade.  Cook an additional 5 minutes or to desired doneness.

Source:  allrecipes.com, with variations from Joelen's Culinary Adventures


Orzo with Parmesan and Basil


Orzo with Parmesan and Basil
2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1 (14.5 oz.) can chicken broth
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup fresh basil, chopped or 1 Tbsp. dried basil
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in skillet over medium-high heat.  Stir in orzo and saute until lightly browned.  Stir in chicken broth and bring to boil.  Cover.  Reduce heat and simmer until orzo is tender and liquid is absorbed, approximately 15-20 minutes.  Mix in Parmesan cheese and basil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Transfer to a serving bowl.

*Note:  If you use fresh basil, measure 1 cup of whole leaves, then chop.  I highly recommend using the fresh basil.  It's a completely different dish when you use the fresh herb.

 Source:  allrecipes.com

Chocolate Chip Cookies


Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk dry ingredients together in medium bowl; set aside.  In mixer, mix butter and sugars.  Beat in egg, yolk, and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and beat on low speed just until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Bake 11-14 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Source:  Annie's Eats, originally from Baking Illustrated

Change of Pace

Ok Go is one of my favorite bands, and I particularly enjoy their music videos.  They're hilarious and creative.  If you're bored, some of my favorites are Here it Goes Again, and This Too Shall Pass.  Their newest video is the best they've done so far.  It is awesome!  Watch it here...


Cowboy Cookies


I made these Cowboy Cookies because I was trying to use up some ingredients.  When I found the recipe, I thought they sounded okay, but I wasn't expecting anything fantastic.  These cookies are wonderful; I loved them.  I couldn't stay out of them.  I don't love coconut, so I used less than the recipe called for, but I won't make that mistake again.  The texture of the oatmeal hides the texture of the coconut, so you barely notice the presence of coconut.  Next time, I will, however, use fewer chocolate chips.  Also, this recipe makes a lot of cookies.  I didn't count mine, but I'd say it was close to 4 dozen.  I made mine a little smaller than the recipe directs.  This would be a very easy recipe to half; you could also freeze the dough.

Cowboy Cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder 
1 Tablespoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups sweetened, flaked coconut
2 cups chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or line with a silicone baking mat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.  Gradually beat in the sugars and continue to beat until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as necessary, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated.  With a wooden spoon or large rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate chips, oats, coconut, and pecans.

For each cookie, drop 1/4 cup dough onto the baking sheets, spacing them about 3 inches apart.  Bake until the edges are set but the middles still look light and puffy, about 12-15 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through.  Cool the cookies on the baking sheets.

Source:  Brown Eyed Baker 

Buffalo Chicken Dip


It's September, and in Alabama, that means it's football season!  I know what you're thinking...football season started two and a half weeks ago.  Well, Jim Bob and I are helping our friends, Jonathan and Kathleen King run a vending tent on gamedays.  If you haven't been by to see us, we're at all of the home games, located on 10th Avenue between Bryant Drive and 12th Street (in between Tutwiler and Evergreen Cemetery).  You can see the new t-shirts on my Facebook page. 

But I digress...One of my favorite parts of football season is all of the great tailgating food.  Buffalo Chicken Dip is one of our favorites and has been nicknamed Crack Dip.  I know you'll love it as much as we do.

Roll Tide Roll!

Buffalo Chicken Dip
1 10 oz. can of chunk chicken, drained
1  oz. package of cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1/3 cup pepper sauce (I use Texas Pete.)
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat chicken and hot sauce in skillet over medium heat.  Stir in cream cheese and ranch dressing.  Cook stirring until well-blended and warm.  Mix in half of cheese, and transfer into slow cooker.  Sprinkle remaining cheese over top, cover, and cook on low setting until warm and bubbly. 

Source:  www.thenest.com


Grama Bonnie's Banana Nut Bread

Banana Bread

There is something comforting about eating a slice of warm banana bread.  There are many variations on this classic recipe, but Jim Bob's grandmother, Bonnie, has found the perfect combination with her recipe.  Banana bread is the perfect thing to throw together if you have company coming over or if you want to take something to a sick friend.

In my effort to encourage Jim Bob to eat healthier, I buy bananas for him to snack on, but invariably, only one or two will get eaten, and then I'm left with ripening bananas.  I freeze these ripe bananas in a Ziploc (with the peel still on) and leave them in the freezer for the next time I'm ready to throw together a loaf of banana bread.  When you're ready to make your bread, set the frozen bananas out for a few minutes to defrost.

Bonnie's Banana Nut Bread

3 cups sugar (per Grama Bonnie's notes use 1 1/2 cups brown sugar + 1 1/2 cups white sugar)
1 cup cooking oil
4 eggs
3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg (I omitted this.)
2/3 cup water
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
2 1/4 cup ripe mashed bananas (I use 3-4 bananas, and I don't typically measure the bananas.)
1 cup chopped nuts (I prefer walnuts, but pecans will work well, too.)

Grease 3 loaf pans and heat oven to 325 degrees.  Combine sugars, oil, eggs, water, and bananas.  In mixing bowl, sift dry ingredients together.  Make a well in center, add banana mixture.  Blend just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Stir in nuts.  Bake in moderate oven approximately 1 hour.

*Note:  When I used to make this banana bread recipe, the middle of the bread was always a little too gooey and not quite done, even after baking for the full hour, plus a few minutes.  I thought it might just be the way the recipe was supposed to turn out, but I was wrong.  I recently bought an oven thermometer to put inside my oven.  It hangs on the top rack, and I can see it easily when I open the door.  It turns out that my oven is about 15-20 degrees off, so I was actually baking at a lower temperature than I should have.  Now that I have the thermometer, I can adjust the oven temperature more accurately.  The banana bread turns out perfectly now!

Source:  Grama Bonnie Turner


World Peace Cookies

Dorie Greenspan is a brilliant baker. In her cookbook Baking:  From my home to yours, Dorie shares the recipe for World Peace Cookies (the original recipe of Parisian pastry chef Pierre Herme) and explains their name.  "A daily dose of Pierre's cookies is all that is needed to ensure planetary peace and happiness."

These cookies are a member of the sables family (think sandy and buttery, like shortbread).  The mixture of cocoa, chocolate chunks, and just a hint of saltiness makes these cookies irresistible.  Jim Bob and I have decided that we've had enough peace, and I'm taking them to work tomorrow to share with my coworkers.

World Peace Cookies 2
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips 

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy.  Add both sugars, the salt, and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.

Turn off the mixer.  Pour in the dry ingredients, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time.  Take a peek - if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel.  Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough - for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don't be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly.  Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half.  Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours.  (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.  If you've frozen the dough, you needn't defrost it before baking - just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

World Peace Cookies 1Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.  Using a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick.  (The rounds are likely to crack as you're cutting them - don't be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.)  Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes - they won't look done, nor will they be firm, but that's just the way they should be.  Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature. 

Source:  Baking:  From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan


A Place to Play and Pray

Deer family
"Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." - John Muir

My Grama lives in the North Georgia mountains on a beautiful lake.  Our family - immediate, extended, honorary, and adopted - has come here for many years to play and pray.  We all get together for the major summer holidays and then sporadically throughout the year, and massive amounts of food are always involved when we get together.   This is the place that I think of when I read John Muir's quote.  Where is your place to play and pray?

When I called to tell my Grama that I was coming for a visit, I asked her if she had any dessert requests.  She replied, "Banana Cream pie appeals to me, no pun intended!"  So I set out on a mission to find the best Banana Cream Pie recipe.  Dorie Greenspan gives the perfect version in her book Baking:  From My Home to Yours.  This version is time-intensive, and it requires a lot of attention.  I suggest having an extra set of hands to help.  My mom was my baking companion for this adventure. 

This pie is amazing and has secured its spot in Jim Bob's short list of favorite desserts.

Banana Cream Pie

Banana Cream Pie

Makes 8 servings

For the custard:
2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar, pressed through a sieve
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

3 ripe but firm bananas

1 9-inch single pie crust, fully baked and cooled

For the topping:
1 cup cold heavy cream
2 Tbsp. confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. sour cream (I omitted this.)

To make the custard:  Bring the milk to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt until well blended and thick.  Whisking without stopping, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk - this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle - then, still whisking, add the remainder of the milk in a steady stream.  Put the pan over medium heat, and whisking constantly (make sure to get into the edges of the pan), bring the mixture to a boil.  Boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes before removing from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract.  Let stand for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the custard is smooth and silky.  You can either press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the custard to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the custard until cold, or if you want to cool the custard quickly, put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water and stir occasionally until the custard is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

When you are ready to assemble the pie, peel the bananas and cut them on a shallow diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Whisk the cold custard vigorously to loosen it, and spread about one quarter of it over the bottom of the piecrust - it will be a thin layer.  Top with half of the banana slices.  Repeat, adding a thin layer of pastry cream and the remaining bananas, then smooth the rest of the pastry cream over the last layer of bananas.

To Make the Topping:  Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream until it just starts to thicken.  Beat in the confectioners' sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until the cream holds firm peaks.  Switch to a rubber spatula and gently fold in the sour cream (if you choose to use it).

To Finish:  Spoon the whipped cream over the filling and spread it evenly to the edges of the custard.  Serve, or refrigerate until needed.

Note:  This dessert is best consumed the day it is made.

Source:  Dorie Greenspan, Baking:  From My Home to Yours

Banana Cream Pie


Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

This is the second flavor of cupcake that I made for Hannah's Going-Away Dinner.  They are just as wonderful as the Cookies and Cream Cupcakes.  The cake is rich and has a peanut butter filling comparable to a buckeye candy.  I often feel like in a peanut butter/chocolate combo one flavor overpowers the other, but in this recipe the flavors are equally decadent.  I garnished the cupcakes with a Reese's peanut butter cup.   

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes

For the filling:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the cake:
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup whipped topping, thawed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two cupcake pans with 24 paper liners.

To make the filling, combine the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium speed until well-combined.  Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls (at least 24) and set aside on cookie sheet. 

To make the cake batter, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; whisk together and set aside.  In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the sour cream, milk, and vanilla extract.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar, and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed.  With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.  Mix just  until incorporated.

Spoon a teaspoon or two of the cake batter into the bottom of each cupcake liner.  Place a ball of the peanut butter filling in each cupcake well and top with the remaining batter so all the cupcakes are filled.  Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, and peanut butter until smooth.  Slowly mix in the confectioners' sugar until smooth and well-blended.  Mix in the whipped topping until smooth and fluffy.  Frost cupcakes as desired.

Source:  Annie's Eats


Leaving the Nest

Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child,
Listen to the DON'TS
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me-
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.

- by Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends


My little sister, Hannah, left for college today.  It's so hard to believe she's an adult; old enough to live on her own.  It seems only yesterday that she was the flower girl in Whitney's wedding and practicing gymnastics with me in the yard.  Hannah has grown into a beautiful young woman, both inside and out, and I am lucky to be a part of her life.
The family got together for a farewell dinner, and I brought the cupcakes at Hannah's request - chocolate peanut butter and cookies and cream.

Hannah - We love you so much and wish you all the best!


Cookies and Cream Cupcakes
Yields 24 cupcakes
24 Oreo halves, with cream filling attached
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 2/3 cup sugar
3 large egg whites, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup milk
20 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp. heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line the wells of two cupcake pans with 24 liners.  Place an Oreo half in the bottom of each well, cream side up.

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir together and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixture, combine the butter and sugar and beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes.  Blend in egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla extract.  With the mixer on low speed, beat in half of the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Add the milk and beat just until combined, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients.  Gently fold in the chopped Oreos with a rubber spatula until evenly incorporated, being careful not to overmix.

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Blend in the vanilla extract.  Beat in the confectioners' sugar until incorporated and smooth, 1-2 minutes.  Add the heavy cream to the bowl and beat on medium-low speed just until incorporated, then increase the speed to medium-high and whip for 4 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Frost the cooled cupcakes as desired. Sprinkle with Oreo crumbs and garnish with Oreo halves.

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

Source:  Annie's Eats


Homemade Hummus


I spent the weekend in Hilton Head with my dear friend, Kendall, and her daughter, Logan. We had a wonderful time, and I highly recommend visiting if you haven't been. I made up a batch of homemade hummus for us to snack on. It's an easy dish, and even if you've never tried hummus or are unsure of it, I encourage you to try it. You might be pleasantly surprised; Kendall and Logan were!

Homemade Hummus

3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup water
6 Tablespoons tahini, stirred well
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 (14 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed


Combine lemon juice and water in a small bowl. Whisk together tahini and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in second small bowl. Process chickpeas, garlic, salt, cumin, and cayenne in food processor until almost fully ground, about 15 seconds. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula. With machine running, add lemon juice-water mixture in steady stream through food tube. Scrape down bowl and continue to process for 1 minute. With machine running, add oil-tahini mixture in steady stream through the food tube. Continue to process until hummus is smooth and creamy, about 15 seconds.

Transfer to bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

* I like to serve this hummus with Stacy's Parmesan Garlic and Herb Pita Chips. They're also great with Wheat Thins or carrot sticks.

Source:  Annie's Eats


Twice-Baked Potatoes

One of Jim Bob's favorite meals is steak and potatoes. I leave the steak marinating and grilling to him. He's mastered the technique and seems to really enjoy it, and that suits me just fine. I enjoy making the side dishes and desserts. We have a lot of fun when we prepare meals together for our friends.

Currently, our favorite potato side dish is twice baked potatoes. You just can't go wrong with potatoes, cheese, sour cream, bacon bits, and Lawry's seasoning. My favorite recipe for twice baked potatoes comes from Pioneer Woman. She uses Lawry's seasoning which is sure to please at my house. They're crowd-pleasers and easy to make. I don't use exact measurements when I make this because we love bacon and sour cream, so make adjustments according to your preferences. Enjoy!

Twice-Baked Potatoes

4 baking potatoes, washed and pricked with a fork
sour cream
bacon bits (I use the "real" kind in the jar, not the crunchy ones)
shredded colby jack cheese
chopped chives (I omitted this.)
Lawry's seasoning

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place potatoes in oven to bake for one hour or until potatoes are soft when tested with a fork. Remove potatoes and cool. Cut potatoes in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the insides of the potato into a medium mixing bowl. Be careful not to tear the potato skin. Add butter, sour cream, bacon bits,Lawry's, chives, and cheese to mixing bowl. Using a potato masher, mash potato mixture until well-blended.

Spoon potato mixture back into the skins. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

*Twice-baked potatoes are great reheated and can be frozen for later use.

Source: Pioneer Woman
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