May 30, 2014

Ultimate Barbecue Sauce

I made this sauce once long ago and I never forgot it.  Sometimes that happens.  That is a perfect example of why I now have a blog.  I have to have some sort of record as to what I've made or else I'll never remember. But I digress…

So my husband told me a couple of nights ago that he really felt like making baby back ribs, as it turned out, I really felt like eating some so it worked out well. The only thing I didn't feel like, was store bought barbecue sauce.  Don't get me wrong, I use store bought all the time and it's totally yum.   But, I wanted to have super fancy, very special ribs, so I just made a sauce myself.  I LOVE this sauce.  I love it as much this time as I did last time.  It really takes the flavor of the meat to a whole new level.  It's not spicy, it's sweet with a bite of vinegar.  It's smooth but it has pieces of onion.  It's just perfect in my opinion.

I doubled the recipe so I'd have some in the refrigerator for other uses.  The original recipe is for barbecued chicken so maybe I'll whip some of that up.  You can't go wrong with this sauce!

Ultimate Barbecue Sauce
Recipe from Tyler Forence

  • 1 slice bacon
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 Tbsp red or white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika, smoked if you have it
  • fresh ground black pepper
Cooking Directions
  1. In a large saucepan, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil and then wrap the slice of bacon around the thyme and add it to the hot oil. Cook for about 4 minutes so the bacon can render.
  2. Remove the bacon/thyme and discard.
  3. Add the chopped onion and garlic and let cook but do not brown it. Cook about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and then reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.

May 28, 2014

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

You're looking at the dish that I see most often at potlucks.  It never fails, Pineapple Upside-Down cake is always on the menu. That's because it's a classic.  Almost all of us have had it and it brings back memories, not to mention it tastes great. 

The cake portion of the recipe is a simple white cake, but the caramel-y, fruity topping (which starts on the bottom, hence the name) takes the place of frosting.  It's sweet and delicious.  

I brought this cake to my neighborhood Memorial Day party and it was perfect because it can withstand being outside in the heat without melting. There's a reason that this cake has made it into "classic" status and has been around for so many years.  

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Recipe from Trisha Yearwood

  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 can (20 oz) Pineapple slices (9 slices needed)
  • 5 maraschino cherries, cut in half
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup milk
Cooking Directions
  1. Use an 8x8 inch pan. Put on the burner on low heat and melt the butter. Remove from the heat and add the brown sugar, stir to combine.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350º
  3. Place the pineapple slices on top of the brown sugar mixture, 3 rows of 3.
  4. Cut the maraschino cherries in half and place one half in the middle of each pineapple, cut side up. Set aside.
  5. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  6. In the bowl of your stand mixer combine the shortening, sugar, egg and vanilla extract. Mix well.
  7. Alternatively add the flour mixture and the milk, starting and ending with the flour. Only mixing long enough to combine after each addition.
  8. Carefully pour the mixture on top the pineapple slices using a spatula or spoon to spread it out evenly.
  9. Bake for 40 minutes or until done. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick, if it comes out clean it's done. Or you can press on the middle of the cake and if it springs back, it's done.
  10. Remove from the oven and flip over onto a dish, leave the pan inverted on the top for several minutes so the syrup can soak into the cake.

May 26, 2014

Southern Style Boiled Peanuts

Boiled Peanuts are one of the things I had never heard of when I moved to the South. Why would you boil a peanut, I would ask.  While down in Louisiana visiting family, I saw that boiled peanuts were everywhere!  Like, at every gas station. So, I tried one.  And I hated it.  I mean, they're soft.  Aren't peanuts supposed to be hard?

OK, fast forward to years later when I was out on the lake with my friends.  There was a boat on the lake that was a concession stand, basically.  But onboard they sold boiled peanuts, and everyone was buying them.  What is wrong with these people, I silently wondered.  Ok I'll try one.  You know what? It wasn't that bad.  So eventually I started to even like them.  They are soft, but they are salty and sometimes spicy and pretty darn good.

Nowadays I just make them myself.  I don't hang out at the lake like I once did but that doesn't mean that I can't have some boiled peanuts. They are somewhat time consuming so plan ahead.  The good news is that I've also made these in a crock pot so at least you've got options.  The cooking time will be the same in the crock pot if you cook it on high. Just test them every so often for the saltiness you like and or spice.  The nuts should be soft but not mushy.

I might have had slightly more then 5 pounds, so I added about 1/2 cup more salt and cooked for about 30 minutes longer.

Southern Style Boiled Peanuts
Recipe from All Recipes

  • 5 lbs raw, unsalted peanuts in the shell
  • 1 cup salt
  • 5 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
Cooking Directions
  1. Add the peanuts and all of the remaining ingredients to a large pot. Cover with water.
  2. Bring to a boil and cover, lower heat and let boil for 3 hours.
  3. Taste the peanuts and add more salt if desired or cook longer if they are not soft enough for your taste.

May 19, 2014

Sugar Cookie Bars

I'm not sure if you recall or not, but my last post mentioned how this past weekend was my daughters birthday Ice Cream Social.  Well, she's not a huge fan of cake, frosting yes, cake not so much.  So I decided to make her these sugar cookie bars and frost them and decorate them just like I would have if I made a cake.  Well, I'm not sure I'm brave enough to show the decorated cookie…it was pretty bad.  I can't decorate to save my life!  But on the positive side, the cookie tasted amazing!

In addition to the cookie bars we also had ice cream obviously.  I got three different flavors and got those plastic sundae cups for the kids to take home with them. I had every topping you can think of and we just let the kids top them as they wanted.  It was a success!

OK, back to the cookie bars.  When baking them, it's important to not over cook them.  I cooked them until the middle wasn't shiny anymore but it didn't look done.  I still took them out and followed the instructions from the original recipe.  It worked.  They were done in the middle and they have great flavor!  The frosting I used was a perfect accompaniment to the cookie.  Nice buttery flavor.

This would be a great dessert for the non-cake lovers in your life.  All the kids loved them!

Sugar Cookie Bars
Recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

  • 3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest (optional)
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375º
  2. Spray a 9x13 inch dish with non-stick cooking spray
  3. In a medium bowl (or your mixing bowl), cream together the butter and both sugars. Add the eggs, zest and the vanilla extract and mix for 1-2 minutes. 
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Slowly add the dry mix to the wet mix. Mix until combined. 
  5. Pour/press the mixture into the dish.  I found that your hands work best. 
  6. Bake for 10-13 minutes.  Do not over bake. The color will remain pale, the sides will not be golden and the middle will just barely be set. 
  7. Remove from the oven and let cool before frosting. 

Decorator Frosting
Recipe from AllRecipes

  • 2/3 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 4 Tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • food coloring of your choice
Cooking Directions
  1. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the milk and vanilla extract and cream. Add the color of your choice.

May 16, 2014

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread

Oh thank goodness it's finally Friday.  Yea!  Do you have any big plans? 

Well, I do. Busy weekend ahead. 

My daughter just turned 6!  I know!  I can't believe it either.  Well, her party is scheduled for this weekend and I feel like I'm not prepared for it.  She threw me a curve ball when she said she didn't want cake or cupcakes for her party.  So, we're having an ice cream social instead.  Oh, did I forget to mention that she wants me to decorate sugar cookies? Do you want to guess how she wants me to decorate them? 

Nope, keep guessing. 

OK, I'll tell you.  Peacock….

What 6 year old chooses peacock for her theme I ask you!!

Well, I'll post some pictures but you all know that decorating is not my strong suit.  Wish me luck. 

Now on to today's recipe.  As usual I had banana's ripening on my counter, beyond the ripeness that you want to actually eat.  I didn't have some of the ingredients for my usual banana bread but I did have them all for this recipe.  I have to tell you.  I'm really thrilled with how it turned out.  Let's overlook the fact that I didn't exactly get the "swirl" in the middle of the bread.  It's more toward the upper 1/4 of the bread, oh well, it still tasted great. 

Its easy and you should have all these ingredients right in your pantry.  It's also nice that it just makes one loaf.  The cinnamon sugar gives the top a nice little crunch of sweetness.  Definitely a keeper. 

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread
Recipe from Maybe Matilda

  • 3 overripe banana's, mashed
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350º
  2. Spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan with non-stick spray
  3. In a large bowl, mix the banana's, butter, both sugars, egg and vanilla extract.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.
  5. Slowly add the dry mixture into the wet mixture, just until combined. Do not over mix.
  6. In a small bowl mix the swirl ingredients together.
  7. Pour half the batter into the prepared dish, sprinkle 2/3's of the swirl mixture evenly over the top, pour the remaining batter over that and then top with the rest of the swirl mixture.
  8. Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  9. When completely cool, combine the glaze ingredients and drizzle over the top.

May 14, 2014

Strawberry Freezer Jam

What do you do when you have all these fresh strawberries and they are starting to go bad? Make jam! I know, I know, don't panic.  Freezer name is much easier then traditional jam making.  You don't even have to have canning jars, but you do need some sort of jar with a lid.

I'm sure you've noticed how fast fresh strawberries tend to go bad, right? Don't let your efforts be wasted by throwing them away.  Even if you just bought them from the grocery store, don't throw your money away either.  Freezer jam is easy.  No thermometer, canning jar's or supplies are needed.  I promise.

You do need a box of pectin but that's all you need from the canning jar isle, unless you specifically want the canning jars.  Even if you buy too many there are a million and one uses for canning jars.  Store everything from spices to leftovers in them.  I make salad dressing in them because it's convenient to just shake it in the jar and them just set the jar on the table for serving.  Give gifts in them, use them as a flower vase.  Really, you can always use extra jars and lids.

Just store the jars in your freezer when you're done, let them thaw in the refrigerator and then use them in about a month and you've saved all that yumminess and money for later use.  The jam is so tasty!  Peanut butter and jelly never had it so good, or use it to spread on toast.  There are so many uses for canned jams and jelly's.  Even if you give them away to your family or friends, they'll be so happy and you'll be a hero.  Give this recipe a try!

Strawberry Freezer Jam
Recipe from All Recipes

  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, crushed
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 (1.75 oz) package pectin powder
  • 3/4 cup water
Cooking Directions
  1. Crush the strawberries and add the sugar, stir and let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan combine the water and the pectin. Bring to a hard boil and boil for 1 minute.
  3. Turn off the heat and let sit for 1 minute.
  4. Mix the pectin mixture in with the crushed strawberries, stir until the sugar has dissolved and let sit for 3 minutes. Pour into the containers and tighten the lids. Let sit for 24 hours and then place in the freezer.
**Once thawed, they will last for about 1 month in the refrigerator. 

May 12, 2014

Overnight French Toast Casserole

You're looking at my new favorite way to wake up with company.  OK, maybe even without company.  I knew that I had seen some recipes floating around that used Challah bread for a french toast casserole.  I found this one and was super excited to give it a try.

First of all, I have to tell you that I recently tried Challah bread for the first time at a dinner club. I was surprised at how much I liked it, it's sweet and dense and I just love it.  It also makes the perfect french toast.

You basically just cut it up and layer it in a dish, pour a yummy milk mixture over the top and refrigerate it.  Then in the morning you just take it out a bit ahead of time so the dish can warm a little, then bake it.  How easy is that?

The bread soaks in all the egg/milk mixture and when you bake it, you get a bite of all those flavors.  The milk, egg, cinnamon seeps in and the top gets nice and golden brown.  Top with some butter and some maple syrup and it's breakfast on a whole new level.  I even saw some recipes where they added apples and other yumminess.  I'm totally doing that some time soon!

Overnight French Toast Casserole
Recipe from Ezra Pound Cake

  • 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 loaf Challah or Brioche Bread, sliced 1 1/2 inches thick
  • 8 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup whole milk or half n half
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup pecans (optional)
Cooking Directions
  1. In a small bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Add in the brown sugar and stir.
  2. In a 9x13 inch dish, spread the brown sugar mixture on the bottom and then layer the bread slices. They will overlap.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the milk, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and salt.  Add in the lightly beaten eggs and stir together. 
  4. Pour the milk mixture over the bread, making sure to try to get all the bread coated. 
  5. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate 3-13 hours. 
  6. When ready to bake, take the dish out of the refrigerator 20 minutes prior to baking.  
  7. Preheat the oven to 350º
  8. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the bread is golden in color. 
  9. Remove and top with confectioners' sugar, maple syrup, fruit or anything you wish. 

May 9, 2014

Strawberry Fruit Leather

Strawberries are in full swing this time of year here in the South and boy have we been taking advantage of it!  We have attempted to pick some from a local field but they just happened to not be picking that day.  Haha, such is our luck.  We'll definitely try again later.

The only problem I have when we get into this time of year is buying more than we can quickly eat and needing to come up with lots of ways to use them all.  This recipe is one of those examples.  My daughter loves fruit leather, as many kids do, so I thought this was the perfect way to use up some strawberries.

I didn't spread the puree out much on the cookie sheets I had so mine took longer to dry then the recipe below indicates.  It probably took 6 hours for mine to get done.  I didn't mind, it made my kitchen smell incredible and by the time they were done, I had plenty of time to roll them and take pictures. It worked out perfectly actually.

The other little helpful hint I will give you is this, make sure the edges and the middle are all the same thickness.  When the middle of my fruit leather was done, the edges were crispy.  Not that that matters, I just broke them off and crunched on them like little strawberry crackers.  They were quite yummy actually.

These are wonderful for road trips, school lunches, outdoor play or treats at an outdoor barbecue.  Or just to snack on. There are many different flavor combinations you can try, the Internet is magical when it comes to looking for new ideas!

Enjoy the fruits that are ripe in your neck of the woods, and make them last longer by making them into fruit leather!

Strawberry Fruit Leather
Recipe from Baked by Rachel

  • 4 - 4 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
Cooking Directions
  1. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat. (12x17 if you have it)
  2. Preheat the oven to 170º
  3. Puree all of the ingredients until smooth. You can strain to remove the seeds if you want to.
  4. Pour half the mixture into each pan and use a spatula to make sure they are level, and thin. The thicker it is the longer it will need to bake. 
  5. Bake for 3 hours total, turn 180 degrees half way through cooking and also switch the placement of the trays on the oven racks.  Like move the tray on the bottom to the top, and vice versa with the top tray. 
  6. Cook until no longer tacky and move to a cutting board.  Cut into even sized pieces of your choice and then roll in either parchment paper or wax paper.  
  7. Store in an airtight container. 

May 7, 2014

Salsa Verde Chicken Enchiladas

Recently we had our cousin Michelle, from Boston, stay at our house for a day before heading back home.  It was so nice to see her.  We spent a day going to the zoo, then came home to this dinner.  The following day we got some fresh strawberries.  I'm telling you, these strawberries melt in your mouth.  I just love them.  We had planned to pick them ourselves but it turns out that they weren't picking that day.  So we just made due with some already picked one's they had available. 

Michelle doesn't necessarily like spicy food, but she told me about a recipe that she tried while she was on a visit to California that seemed easy enough to make.  So I did my best, and it turned out great!  I'm happy to say that we have another favorite in our household. 

If you happen you like a lot of spice you could certainly add some of your favorite peppers or hot sauce to spice things up. 

Salsa Verde Chicken Enchiladas
From Alissamay's Kitchen

  • package of 10 flour tortilla's
  • 1 pound chicken breasts, cooked, shredded or diced
  • 1 package (2 cups) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can corn, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can green chili's, do not drain
  • 1 jar (16 oz) Salsa Verde
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350º
  2. Spray a 9x13 inch dish with cooking spray
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the chicken, black beans, corn, and green chili's and mix well.
  4. Place approximately 1/2 cup of the mixture onto the middle of one tortilla, top with a little cheese and a spoonful or two of Salsa Verde.
  5. Pull in the sides of the wrap, and then roll the top half of the tortilla over the top and tuck it under while rolling forward so the enchilada is formed into a nice tight roll.
  6. Place seam side down in the dish and continue until all the enchiladas are done.
  7. Pour the remaining Salsa Verde over the top of the wraps and then sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the tops are just beginning to turn golden. Remove from the oven and let cool for a minute before serving.
  9. Top with sour cream, cilantro, hot sauce or whatever you like. 

May 5, 2014

Gaia Cookies

Yea, these are good cookies.

I mean the list of ingredients is everything that I like, but I put it to the test with my daughter, and guess what? She liked them.  I didn't tell her there was coconut and walnuts in there.  She wouldn't have even given them a chance if I had done that. I pretty much had her after "chocolate chips" anyway.

Where as these cookies are much flatter then other cookies, I find that they are still chewy and hold together well when cooled.  I'm not going to tell you that they are a gorgeous looking cookie, but their taste makes up for it.

I used raisins and craisins for the "dried fruit" portion of the recipe but I really can't wait to try it with some of the other suggestions. Dried cherries is pretty much all I can think about right now.

I got this recipe from one of the books I read recently, Bread & Wine, where it was indicated that the author got/duplicated this recipe from a favorite place that she used to visit.  I was curious about what the word Gaia meant.  According to wikipedia, Gaia was in Greek Mythology "The personification of Earth", "The great creator of all", "The Primal Greek Mother Goddess".  So, this cookie is under a little bit of pressure don't you think? I certainly can see how it got the name.  It does seem like it's got all good things from the earth in it.  Maybe by eating them you begin to feel more Goddess like? I don't know but I've eaten about 10 so far and I don't feel much different.  Well my clothes might be a little tighter...

Gaia Cookies
Recipe from Bread & Wine page 211

  • 2 sticks butter at room temperature.
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups oats
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup flaked sweetened coconut
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped dates, raisins, dried cherries or cranberries or any combination
  1. Preheat the oven to 350º
  2. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Cream together the butter and brown sugar
  4. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. 
  5. Add flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and mix well. 
  6. Add the coconut, walnuts, chocolate chips and whichever dried fruit you are using.  Mix well. 
  7. Drop by Tbsp onto the prepared cookie sheets. 
  8. Refrigerate so the dough is cold - 10 minutes or so.
  9. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden. 

May 2, 2014

Grandma Maroni's Meatballs

My husband has a minor addiction to meatballs.  It's one of the foods that he'll never turn down.  In my recent cookbook search, I found this recipe, and knew he'd love it.  It's an old Italian style meatball that I'm so glad I tried.  

This is a pretty garlic-y meatball, so maybe cut back a little if you're not a big garlic fan.  The texture was right on.  Tender, flavorful, and the perfect size for your spaghetti dinner.  Honestly, I felt like I was sitting in an old Italian restaurant when I ate these.  I was just waiting for some little old Italian woman to start yelling at me.  My husband told me that his Italian relatives made meatballs like this when he was little.  So for him, this was a really down-home meal.  

There is a sauce recipe that accompanies this meatball recipe in the book, but since I didn't use it I didn't post it.  Maybe next time. :)

Definitely a keeper, I'd make this for his Italian family and feel pretty comfortable about it.
Grandma Maroni's Meatballs
Recipe from "Bobby Flay's Throwdown!" cookbook

  • Olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leave parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 small Spanish onion, grated
  • 3 Tbsp minced garlic
  • pinch of Kosher salt, to taste
Cooking Directions
  1. Oil a 9x13 inch dish or a rimmed baking sheet, set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350º
  3. Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl, making sure to combine well. 
  4. Form the meat mixture into a loose ball the size of a golf ball and place on the prepared dish. 
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until cooked through. 
  6. Serve with you favorite pasta and sauce.