May 31, 2013

Puny's Macaroni and Cheese

One of my recent trips to the library was very productive.  I was in the cookbook section (as usual) and stumbled upon this book/cookbook.  The title of the book was confusing because it's called a cookbook and a kitchen reader, having no idea what a kitchen reader was I decided to check it out.  It's a book written with ton's of recipes strewn throughout, it's pretty cool.  I have started to read the story but mainly my focus was on the recipes.

There are many, many very yummy sounding Southern recipes.

I likey.

Obviously I had to try the macaroni and cheese recipe first.  I'm still obsessed with trying to find the one my daughter will gladly eat.  Haven't found that one yet, not even this one.  But my husband and I enjoyed it immensely.

It's very cheesy and melts nice and smooth.  I loved the little bite that the sour cream and the cream cheese contribute along with the sharp cheddar.  I skipped the breadcrumbs because I knew my little girl wouldn't even try it if it had breadcrumbs on top but I'm sure it would add a nice crunch and flavor. I'm very happy with this recipe, glad I tried it!  I can add this to my growing list of recipes that I love and my daughter won't eat.  :)

Puny's Macaroni and Cheese
Recipe from Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook & Kitchen Reader, page 311

  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter + 2 Tbsp for the breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper (I used white)
  • 4 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound cooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (optional)
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350º
  2. Butter a 3 quart baking dish and set aside.
  3. In a large pot of boiling salted water, start cooking the macaroni.
  4. In a large saucepan, melt the butter and then add the flour. Stir until smooth, then add the milk. Stir until smooth and thick and then add the sour cream and cream cheese.
  5. Stir until smooth and add all the seasonings.
  6. Add the cheese and stir until smooth.
  7. The macaroni should be done, and when it is just drain it and add it back to the pan it cooked in.
  8. When the cheese has melted, add it to the macaroni and stir well.
  9. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole pan.
  10. If you're adding bread crumbs, prepare them by adding the additional 2 Tbsp of melted butter and stir until coated. Pour them over the top of the macaroni.
  11. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until bubbling around the edges.

May 29, 2013

Apple Hand Pies

I'm not sure why apple pie has been on my mind lately.  Well we had some company coming for the NASCAR race this past weekend and I was looking for some all American dessert to serve them.  I initially made an apple pie, it looked beautiful and I was full of hope for it....but sadly it didn't taste very old fashioned.  So out of panic I quickly found a couple of recipes online that I decided to make and I'm very happy with how it turned out.  Not only does it have a old fashioned taste, it is also portable.  It's a win win!

The filling was perfectly simple, apples, cinnamon and sugar that are sautéed in a pan with some butter before being added to a little round of crust and made into these cute little hand pies.

Old Fashioned All-American Apple Pie Filling

  • 1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • About 1/2 cup granulated sugar, depends on the sweetness of the apples
  • ground cinnamon
  • 5 or 6 tsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 - 2 Tbsp butter
Cooking Directions
  1. In a large frying pan add the butter and let melt over medium heat.
  2. Add the diced apples and let cook for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until the sauce begins to thicken slightly.
  4. Remove from the heat.

Perfect Pie Crust
The Pioneer Woman

  • Make the pie crust as instructed above with the link.  Refrigerate so it is very cold. 
  • Roll out 1/3 of the dough and cut into round shapes, I used a 3" round cutter. 
  • Use about 1 Tbsp filling for the middle. 
  • Make some egg wash using 1 egg and 1 Tbsp of water and put some on the lower 1/2 of the round so the edges will seal better. 
  • Fold over the other half of the round and crimp the edges with either a fork or your hands. 
  • Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. 
  • Bake at 350º for 30 minutes. 

May 27, 2013

Sour Cream Banana Bread

You know how when you're looking for recipes on the internet you find a bunch that are marked "this is the best recipe out there" and so you try it because obviously if it's on the internet it must be true? Well that happens to me all the time. 


This time....

It was true!

I'm totally in love with this recipe.  I say that gingerly because I don't consider myself a banana bread connoisseur, it's always just something I make when my banana's are going to go bad and I'm desperate to use them up.  I've still managed to try several banana bread recipes and they've always been about the same for me.  Good, but nothing too exciting.  

Here are the reasons I love this recipe.

  • Very moist, and it stays that way even after several days. 
  • Freezes very well. 
  • I love the idea of coating the pans with cinnamon sugar, it gives a nice crunch around the edges. 
  • The banana flavor is awesome but the sour cream really adds something. 
  • My favorite part of the bread is the texture, moist, dense, absolutely perfect. 
  • It makes three full sized loaves or four smaller loaves, check the link below for the smaller sized loaf instructions. 

Don't begin to think that just because this is banana bread that this is a healthy recipe.  it's not. 218 calories per slice, but so worth it.

Sour Cream Banana Bread
Recipe from

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 6 very ripe banana's, mashed
  • 1 (16 oz) container sour cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp baking soda
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 325º
  2. Spray three 8.5x4 with non-stick spray, then coat each with the 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon that has been combined in a smaller dish. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the sugar and butter and beat until it resembles a wet sand. Add the eggs, bananas, sour cream, vanilla and cinnamon and mix until combined and smooth.
  4. Add the salt, baking soda and flour and mix until well combined. Add the walnuts if desired.
  5. Fill each loaf pan with 1/3 of the mixture and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

May 24, 2013

Blueberry Lemonade

I bought a bottle of blueberry juice from my local farmers market a while back and really had no idea what I was going to do with it. But I figured, how can you go wrong with blueberry juice?

This is the bottle I bought, I don't know if this is available in the Internet but I've seen it other places as well so I know it's findable, probably wherever you could go and get fresh produce or farmers markets would be your best bet.

My husband and daughter got hold of this and drank it all up practically before I could even get any.  They're blueberry fans to say the very least.

The lemon and blueberry work perfectly together of course and what's nice about using blueberry juice is there isn't any seeds or pulp.

The lemon juice adds a little tart bite in the background and the blueberry is front and center but it mixes perfectly.  I'm just sad it only makes a gallon, seriously, I'm off to find more blueberry juice!

Blueberry Lemonade
Recipe from Hillcrest Blueberry Farm website

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups lemon juice
  • 1 quart (4 cups) blueberry juice
Cooking Directions
  1. Place all the ingredients in a gallon sized container and fill the rest with cold water. Mix until the sugar dissolves.

May 22, 2013

Nellie & Joe's Tropical Ice

So there I was minding my own business at the grocery store, going to buy some lemon juice, and there it was; Nellie & Joe's Key West Lime Juice.  I'm not sure I've ever seen it there before, I mean I think I would have noticed the bright yellow bottle.  Anyway, I was intrigued.  I needed to find out more, I mean there must be a bunch of uses for lime juice right? Right, they have a whole website devoted to recipes.  

Being spring, I decided my first recipe would be a cold treat.  This one sounded good but I wasn't sure if my little girl would like it.  Surprisingly she loved it.  Probably because there's sugar in it. :)

Look for this yummy lime juice at your local grocery store.  It's also a very refreshing way to flavor up some plain ol' water.  
Nellie & Joe's Tropical Ice
Recipe from

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup Nellie & Joe's Key Lime Juice
Cooking Directions
  1. In a small saucepan, heat the water and sugar.
  2. When the sugar has dissolved, turn off the heat and add the lime juice.
  3. Pour into Popsicle containers or into 4 - 4 oz paper cups. If you're using the cup method, let freeze for about 30 minutes before inserting a Popsicle stick.

May 20, 2013

Baby Bird Flew The Coop

Remember this cute little baby in our back yard?  I think he/she is a cardinal.  I think I saw his/her mama flying out of the nest and I also think I saw her daddy pay a visit.  Either way, baby is a cardinal....I think.

I also definitely only see one baby in that nest.

One last thing, he/she flew the coop.  Gone.  Didn't even say goodbye.  Her mommy was probably pretty irritated that we kept taking pictures.  I would say that it was bad planning on mom's behalf, she should have known if she built the nest to close to the ground that I'd peep in on the baby from time to time.

OK she had no way of knowing I'd be such a nosey neighbor.

Anyways, even thought he/she left without so much as a note, I wish him/her the best and I hope we get frequent visits. We will miss spying on you little bird.

May 17, 2013

Fresh Strawberry Lemonade

For my daughter's birthday party everything was strawberry themed.  Even the drinks.  I knew for sure that strawberry lemonade was going to be served, I just had to find a recipe.  In case some of you are new to this blog, if I can make it from scratch I probably will, so I didn't want a recipe that included any kind of canned or bottled anything.  When I found this recipe on Pinterest I knew it was the right one for the job. 

I had a truckload of strawberries at my disposal so measuring out 1 1/4 pounds of strawberries was not a problem.

For this recipe, you're going to want to get the organic lemons.  You have to puree them skin and all.

Pour the mixture through a mesh sieve to get out all that pulp.

Pour the remaining water through this pulp mixture so that you're getting all that flavor.

All in all it was a very simple recipe to make as long as you've got a blender or food processor handy.

You can really taste the strawberries and the lemons, I would say that the ratio is perfect and you can sweeten as much or as little as you like.  I used honey and it was awesome.  It's sort of a thicker type drink - not smoothie thick but more like pulpy orange juice thick.  Garnish with some fresh lemon and strawberry slices and you've got a showstopper drink.  Perfect time of year to serve this one since strawberries are at their peak (well at least in the South they are).

Fresh Strawberry Lemonade
Recipe from

  • 1 1/4 pound fresh strawberries, washed and halved
  • 2 whole lemons, washed and quartered
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup honey or sugar, to taste
  • 6 cups water
  • ice
Cooking Directions
  1. In the blender, add the quartered lemons (rind included, use organic if possible), the strawberries, 2 cups of water and honey (or sugar).
  2. Strain the mixture over a bowl or pitcher along with the other 4 cups of water.
  3. Add additional sugar if desired.
  4. Garnish with ice, lemon and strawberry slices if desired.

May 15, 2013

Chocolate Strawberry Wine

I'm very very happy that I found this wine on my last trip up to Massachusetts.  How can you possibly go wrong with chocolate strawberry wine? Well if you like sweet wine that is, otherwise you probably wouldn't like this. 

There I was, minding my own business at a local grocery store when this caught my eye. I love chocolate.  I love strawberries.  This wine was coming with me. 

Believe it or not it really does taste like chocolate and strawberries.  I had my doubts but it's true!

If you're looking for your own chocolate strawberry goodness I found the Chocolate Shop website. This is not a paid advertisement, I just really liked it.

May 13, 2013

Strawberry Cake and Fresh Strawberry Frosting

My little girl turns 5 years old today.  I just can't believe I have a 5 year old!  Where did the time go? This year's theme was strawberry so everything was strawberry related.  I'm sort of OCD about party planning. Ask anyone of my neighbors or family and they'll all completely agree.  I try not to bore people will my obsessing but sometimes I just can't help it.

I ordered a cute little strawberry birthday kit off of Etsy. It came with a ton of cute decorations and a bunch of things I didn't need but it was nice to have all those options.

I had a dress made specifically for her, it had her name and and a couple of strawberries on the bodice area and then lots of ruffles and polka dots.  I loved it and my daughter loves wearing it.

I made this strawberry cake with strawberry icing from fresh strawberries, chocolate dipped strawberries, strawberry lemonade and I had several strawberry beverages that I purchased.  See, I have this obsession...

The cake was harder to find a recipe for then you might think.  There are a ton of strawberry cake recipes out there but most are made from a boxed cake mix, I'm sure they're delicious it just wasn't what  I was going for for this party. The frosting was a little easier to find and I'm thrilled with how it turned out.

I loved how moist the cake was and the texture from the cake flour.  It was a pretty pink color and even though the original directions said that I could add food coloring to make it more "red" I decided that I didn't want the added color, it was great just the way it was.

I used another plain buttercream frosting recipe for the piping I did, her color's were pink, white, red and green so the green was very pretty on the cake. She loved it and so did all the guests!

Strawberry Cake

  • 8 oz fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 1/4 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cup cake flour
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 12 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350º
  2. Place the strawberries in a blender and blend until smooth. Measure out 3/4 cups of the puree and put that amount back into the blender.
  3. Add the eggs, vanilla and milk to the blender and pulse quickly a couple of times to combine.
  4. In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt) and mix briefly to incorporate.
  5. Add the butter and mix until it the mixture looks like wet sand.
  6. Slowly add the strawberry mixture and beat at medium speed for 1 minutes.
  7. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 30 more seconds.
  8. Bake in a 9x13 in pan for about 32-36 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  9. If making 2- 9 inch round pans bake for 25 minutes, if making cupcakes bake for 18 minutes.

I will be making this frosting again and again.  It was THAT good.  I loved that it used fresh strawberries but I have to say that I didn't get 6 Tbsp of reduced puree out of the 1 cup of strawberries.  It is possible that I reduced it further then I should have but either way, it was dynamite.  The strawberry flavor was so prominent that people actually didn't believe that it was just strawberries and that I didn't add jello or something else. 

Fresh Strawberry Frosting
Recipe from

  • 1 cup (or a little more) Fresh Strawberries
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups (divided) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Cooking Directions
  1. Place the strawberries in a blender, puree until smooth.
  2. Pour the pureed strawberries into a small saucepan and cook over medium low heat until it begins to bubble, then simmer until it has reduced by at least half. Stir frequently, this should take 10-20 minutes. Let cool completely.
  3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).
  4. With the mixer on low, add 1 cup of the confectioners' sugar until blended.
  5. Beat in 2 Tbsp of the strawberry puree and the vanilla.
  6. Repeat with 1 cup of confectioners' sugar and 2 Tbsp of puree two more times.
  7. Add the last 1/2 cup of confectioners' sugar last and beat until smooth.

May 8, 2013

Babies In My Garden

There's all sorts of things happening in my backyard.  Look at this little baby bird that just hatched.  I think it's a robin but I'm not 100% sure.  Just last week we discovered the nest and there were three eggs inside.  Since then we've had torrential downpours and the rose bush that the mommy bird made this nest in has sort of "parted", all the branches have gotten so water logged that they all sort of fell to the side which exposed the nest.  I've been worried about the little chicks but I'm happy to see this one. I'm not sure about the other two eggs, I can't tell if they are under this little guy or perhaps they fell out of the nest.

It's hard to tell, maybe he's laying on top of some other chicks? Or maybe the other two eggs haven't hatched yet?

The mommy bird was watching us closely so I just snapped some quick pictures and left as soon as I could.  I sure hope these little one's make's raining out there again as I type this.

My first tomatoes are making an appearance too.  These are an Heirloom variety.  I can't wait to eat one!

Some little grape tomatoes are peaking out too.  My daughter eats these like candy.

There's always something new in the backyard, go grab your camera and take some pictures!

May 6, 2013

Homemade Fudge Pops

It's been a hectic day, I'm sure you know what I mean.  Like a Monday, oh wait it is Monday.  Well anyway, that's my excuse for not publishing this first thing this morning like usual.  I am happy to report that we're seeing the sun today.  I never thought we'd miss it so much but it's May and you're supposed to have nice sunny cheerful spring days, right? We were getting so much rain that it's been impossible to go outside and enjoy much of anything.  Well, those days are over for a little while and I'm very grateful!

It's a great day for a fudge pop!

My daughter and I share an addiction to chocolate so I knew she'd love these.  I was right. They are very chocolaty and creamy and just right on a nice hot day.  I didn't have to change anything about this recipe, it was perfect just as it is!

Homemade Fudge Pops
Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker

  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 8 Popsicle sticks
Cooking Directions
  1. In a small microwavable dish, melt the chocolate chips by cooking at 50% power in 30 second increments. Stir after each heating until smooth.
  2. Stir the melted chocolate, sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder and milk together in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until it begins to thicken, about 10 minutes., stirring frequently.
  3. When thick, turn off the heat and add the vanilla and butter.
  4. Let cool until the mixture is warm but won't burn you if you touch it.
  5. Pour into Popsicle trays and freeze for 30 minutes before inserting the Popsicle sticks. Freeze until hard.

May 4, 2013

Alfajores - dulce de leche sandwich cookies

When I was invited to a Cinco de Mayo party at my neighbors house I immediately went looking for a great recipe that would be in the Cinco de Mayo spirit.  I had almost settled for churro's when I stumbled upon this recipe.  Caramel filled cookie? Right up my alley!

The recipe is pretty easy although I don't remember using this much cornstarch in a recipe prior to now.  It came together easily.  Allow yourself an hour to refrigerate the dough.  When the dough comes out of the refrigerator it is a bit difficult to work with.  It crumbles easily but can be put back together and once you've been working with it for a few minutes it does become easier. 

This caramel can be found at your regular grocery store in the Hispanic isle.  I found this can at Wal-Mart so I know you'll be able to find it just about anywhere. Canned caramel, best invention ever!

The cookie remains pale after cooking but the contract between it and the golden caramel makes this very appealing to look at.

The shortbread cookie is very light and flavorful and the caramel just adds the creamy texture and smooth silky taste that will finish off any Mexican or Latin meal perfectly.

The traditional Alfajores are made with honey, almonds and spices such as cinnamon.  These little cookies can be filled with several different items including chocolate, fruit, nuts, jam and so on.  Several countries make their own variations of this cookie and I've read that some people prefer to wait and eat them a couple of days after they are made when the cookie begins to soften a bit.  I've seen some pictures of this cookie that has been dipped in chocolate, I don't see how you could possibly go wrong with that option. Apparently it also come in a different shape, less like a cookie and more like a cylinder.

Any way you make this cookie it's sure to make people happy.  Enjoy!

Alfajores - Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies
Recipe from Roxana's Home Baking

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 can (13.4 ounce) Dulce de Leche caramel
Cooking Directions
  1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the butter and sugar and mix until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the egg yolks and the vanilla and mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl add the cornstarch, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir together and slowly add to the wet mixture.
  4. Mix until it just comes together. Pour the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, form into a disk and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350º
  6. On a lightly floured surface, dump out the cold dough and sprinkle a little flour on top. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to 1/4 inch. The dough will break apart and might be hard to roll at first but it is easy to "glue" back together.
  7. Cut shapes and put on two cookie sheets that have been lined with parchment paper.
  8. Re-roll the scraps as many times as needed to use up all the dough.
  9. Bake on the center rack of your oven for 12-13 minutes. Remove to cooling racks and let cool completely before filling.
  10. When cool, use a spoon to fill each cookie and top with another. You can use a fair amount, you don't want to skimp on the caramel and you'll probably have some left in the can anyway.

May 3, 2013

Cinco de Mayo Favorites

Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars

These yummy bars have become a favorite if my family and friends.  Easy to make and perfect for Cinco de Mayo!

Kristi's Dip

My friend Kristi made up this dip and it's a winner!  Everyone who eats it loves it!

Mexican Dinner Club Recipes

Lots of great recipes here!  This is one of many recipes from a dinner club we had, there are some great recipes here.

Tres Leche Cake

This is a classic Mexican cake that has three milks (hence the name).

Spanish Rice

A favorite at any Mexican meal, I was thrilled with this side dish!

I hope you all have a safe and happy Cinco de Mayo!

May 1, 2013

Oven Dried Strawberries

I was on the internet searching for strawberry recipes when I stumbled upon this one.  Well it's not really a recipe, but the person who wrote the post said these were just like candy and better than Twizzlers. Seemed like it was worth a try to me, all you need are strawberries and I just happened to have some. 

You cut the strawberries in half or quarters depending on how big they are, then lay them cut side up on a cookie sheet.  Cut side up is important because otherwise the liquid drains onto the bottom of the pan and they don't dry well. I should have used parchment paper so if you're making these you should do that.

Turn your oven to 210º and cook for 3 hours.  You can flip once during cooking if you want, I didn't and I'm not sure if it would have made a difference or not. Mine dried well without flipping.

Here are some things I noticed when I made them.

  • They become more tart after drying so they are not as sweet as a fresh strawberry.  I don't know if it would help to add sugar or maybe a soak in sugar water.  My daughter didn't like them at all and she's a HUGE strawberry lover. 
  • Obviously they shrink up by more than half their original size.  They would be great for adding into cereals or snacking on while hiking or something like that. 
  • They taste nothing like Twizzlers, the texture isn't like Twizzlers either and I would not compare the two at all.  These are however, a lot healthier than a Twizzler. 

I'm not sure I'll be making them again anytime soon simply because my daughter wouldn't eat them and because you need a lot of strawberries to make a decent snack.  I do enjoy the taste and texture and might try them again later to see if my daughter's tastes change.  I'm glad I tried it out, now I know.

Found at