Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fruit and Yogurt Parfait & What's Going on in March

Day 59.

I'm so excited about what I have planned for the month of March! I was feeling rather organized while I was making out my menu plan and shopping list, so I made lists within the lists. I decided that Sundays in March are going to be Southern Cooking Sundays, where I'll feature full, traditional Southern menus, and that Mondays would be Meatless Mondays (as an act of contrition for the luscious Southern foods consumed on Sunday). I'll continue with slow cooker meals on Wednesdays. And here's my favorite part: Each Friday, I'll be featuring a home-made knock-off of some of our favorite American cookies!

I hope you'll come back every day, and bring your friends, too! :)

Fruit and Yogurt Parfait

  • vanilla yogurt
  • cereal (I used Post Toasties O's, but granola or any cereal you like will work well here)
  • fruit (I used frozen raspberries)
  • honey (optional, but adds a nice dimension)
How it's Done:
  • Layer yogurt, berries, and cereal in a pretty glass or clear bowl, ending with fruit and cereal. Drizzle honey on top. Serve.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

It Feels Like Forever Since We Last Chatted!

Day 58!

Yesterday, I was going to post a delicious pork ribs recipe. After I tidied the house (because my mother and sister were coming today), and after I went grocery shopping, and after I did a bunch of things.

But instead, I felt a jolt of electricity (not real electricity, just felt like a shock) whip through my lower back, then my legs gave out and I hit the floor.


And I couldn't get up for, like, 10 minutes. I thought about those little devices that are advertised for the elderly. Help! I've fallen and I can't...

Wait. Yes I can.

So I spent a few minutes wiggling around on the floor and got myself to a chair. I hoisted myself up onto my feet. I was in a lot of pain. I was CRYING.

But I got up. And I shuffled my way, leaning on every available surface, to my bed. I choked down some Advil and layed on my heating pad.

Because as scary as that was, it's happened to me before and I know what to do. I did it all right. And it's getting better. I am almost back to normal.

Today, my family drove to Atlanta to help my sister move out of her apartment. She's moving to Orlando to attend a new college. Thankfully, college kids don't generally own much stuff, and it only took a little while to get her loaded up and head back to my house.

We went thrift shopping (I bought a really cool triangle, which I intend to use to call my darling children to dinner), went and bought College Kid groceries to get her through her first few weeks at her new home, and ate at Carraba's (a side of minestrone and a full-size dessert qualify as dinner, right?).

Then I came home and made this. It's so easy. It's a "pantry snack," meaning that if you keep the ingredients on hand (warning! they're highly processed ingredients!), you can quickly throw together a snack for the teenagers congregating in your kitchen, or the football fans on your sofa, or your girlfriends gabbing around the table.

This is not my recipe. I think it belongs to Velveeta. But a high school friend taught it to me when we were both newlyweds and I was highly impressed. It's still very yummy.

Velveeta-Rotel Dip

  • 2 lb Velveeta
  • 1 can Rotel diced tomatoes & green chilis
  • 1 Tbsp butter or margarine
How it's Done:
  1. Cut up the Velveeta and dump it in a microwaveable bowl. Dump the UNDRAINED Rotel and butter on top.
  2. Microwave, uncovered, for 1 minute at a time. Stir at the end of each minute. Continue until cheese is melted.
  3. Serve with tortilla chips.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Looks Aren't Everything

Day 56.

It's hard to keep track of the days. I can't believe it's already day 56 of 2010.

 (That's 56 days since you resolved to __________. How're ya doin'?)

My resolution was to share my journey here with you. My resolution was to strive to eliminate most processed foods from my family's diet. It's working. So far, so good. We still stray occasionally to processed foods, and I'm not going to the extreme here (by definition, all food not served whole and raw is processed), but that's okay. Because it's a journey. What's that Miley Cyrus song? It's the climbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb...

Er....sorry, that's the last time I'll channel Miley on this blog. Ever. I swear.


Anyway, here's a yummy recipe that's pretty ugly to behold but it's soooooo yummy for your tummy. You  simply must try it. Go on. You can slum it for the evening.

Hamburger Gravy


  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • salt, pepper, and garlic to taste
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 to 3 cups milk, depending on how thick you like the gravy
  • toast, biscuits, mashed potatoes, rice, or pasta to serve the gravy on
How it's Done:
  1. This is so easy that it's a go-to busy day meal in my house. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the gound beef and onion, cooking until the ground beef is browned. You really ought to use lean so that you don't have to drain it. (But if you don't use lean, drain it once cooked and add the butter AFTER you drain the meat.)
  2. Sprinkle with seasonings and flour. Stir until you don't see any white flour. Then, slowly add the milk, stirring constantly, until the gravy is thick.
  3. Serve over the starch of your choice.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

An Open Letter to Helicopter Moms (and a yummy meal)

Day 55.

Dear Helicopter Mothers,

I'm writing to address a number of issues that your overflowing love for your child has presented to the rest of us average moms. For starters, would you please consider spending less time in the classroom? We know you want to be involved in your child's education. We know you want to show your support of the teachers. We know you want to spend more time with Junior. We know you want to make sure your child has the best education possible, and by making yourself a presence in the classroom, you're ensuring your little Junior will succeed. We all want the same things. But becase you're there, day after day after day, the teacher doesn't need the rest of us. We'd love to be there for our little Juniors, too, but you're hogging all the volunteer time. Please think about how the other children feel knowing that only Junior's mom comes in to read to them. We want to read to the kids, too.

There's also the issue of Girl Scouts. When little Jenny's snack time rolls around, please let her serve the cupcakes that you painstakingly decorated to match the plates and napkins you also provided. We appreciate your contribution. But wouldn't it serve Jenny better to be able to perform her duties as Snack Person instead of you performing them for her? Also, do you have to stay and watch every meeting? It's okay if Jenny has a cookie crumb on her chin. It'll probably still be there when you pick her up. You really don't need to lick the napkin and wash your seven year-old's face every few bites of snack. It's a crumb, not a disease. You'll note the other children with happy frosting mustaches aren't dropping like flies around your precious Jenny. Additionally, your constant prompts to get Jenny to answer questions and volunteer are detracting from the group's natural rhythm and flow. The rest of the girls keep looking at you. Please stop interrupting our leader. Her time is valuable with our children.

On the sports field, please do cheer for Johnny. But don't run to him and pick him up if he falls down. Let him learn how to stand up after he falls. And for heaven's sake, stop booing the opposing team. It's not a very nice thing to do. Don't be so concerned with grass stains. Do you really need that Tide to Go on the soccer field? Really? Do you KNOW how ridiculous you look running out to the sidelines to dab Johnny's bottom with Tide? We wear grass stains as badges of honor out there.

I do so hope you'll bring Jenny over for cookie baking with my child on Saturday. You're welcome to stay, too. But I'll probably try to usher you away from the kitchen while the girls decorate their cookies. Your daughter wants to express herself, not eat your perfect cookie. Who knows? Maybe I can teach you how to enjoy a latte in a separate room.


Free Range Mom

With that said, let the feasting begin!

Slow Cooker Honey-Nut Chicken over Vanilla Rice
serves 4


for Honey-Nut Chicken:
  • 4 chicken breasts (I used frozen ones)
  • 2 Tbsp white vingear
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
for the Vanilla Rice (adapted from Public Aprons Menu):
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups Basmati rice
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp sugar
for dessert (gingerbread from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book):
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon (I had none and subbed pumpkin pie spice)
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger (I used a full tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup light molasses
  • 1/2 cup water
How it's Done:
  1. Dump chicken, vegetable oil, vinegar, honey, cayenne pepper, and almonds into slow cooker. Cook on low 6 to 8 hours. After 7 hours, proceed with step 2.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" square baking dish. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients for the gingerbread (flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
  4. Beat shortening on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg and molasses.
  5. Alternately, add flour mixture and water, scraping sides of bowl frequently.
  6. Pour into prepared pan.
  7. Bake 30 to 35 minutes.
  8. After putting gingerbread in the oven, set a pot of 4 cups of water to boil.
  9. When it's boiling, add the scraped-out insides of a vanilla bean, vanilla extract, sugar, and rice. Return to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook on low 20 minutes. Fluff with fork.
  10. Serve chicken over rice. Spoon sauce over chicken and rice. Serve gingerbread warm from the oven for dessert. I dusted mine with pink and blue sugar for fun. A lemon or orange glaze, simple vanilla glaze, or plain are all good, too.
Now go devour some more eye candy and gain a few new slow cooker recipes at Dining with Debbie!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Present for My Sister

Day 54.

Today, I'm baking for my younger sister. She's moving this weekend to go to a different college, and I'm sending her off to her new home some recipes, groceries, and premade goodies. This is one of them.

Vanilla-Almond Biscotti

1/3 cup softened butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

2 large eggs

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp pure almond extract

1 vanilla bean

1/2 cup chopped almonds

white chocolate for dipping

How it's Done:

  • Beat the butter 30 seconds. Add the sugar, baking soda, and baking powder, and cream well.

  • Add the eggs, one at a time. Then, add the extracts. Scrape the insides out of your vanilla bean and add to the batter.

  • Beat in as much flour as you can. Use a wooden spoon to beat in the remaining flour if needed.

  • Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a 7 to 9" log. Flatten slightly to roughly 1" thick.

  • Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

  • Cool on the baking sheet at least 30 minutes.

  • Slice each log diagonally into 1/2" thick pieces. Place the slices on their cut sides on a baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 6 minutes. Flip them over and bake another 6 to 9 minutes. You want dry, crisp cookies, but don't over bake them.

  • Cool on a wire rack and let them cool completely.

  • Melt your white chocolate. Now what you do with it is up to you. You could dip one end, both ends, one side, or drizzle the white chocolate over one side. Leave the biscotti on waxed paper to allow the white chocolate to dry.

Monday, February 22, 2010

My Grammy's Blueberry Coffee Cake

This is so good. I had this coffee cake growing up and called my Grammy today to get the recipe. She also made it with cranberries -- equally delicious. This is at least its third generation. My mother made it, and now I'm making it.

And NOW, you can make it too. When you make it, and people ooh and ahh over it and ask where you got the recipe, tell them it's Home Cookin' Michelle's Grammy's recipe.

Blueberry Coffee Cake
makes a 10" square cake


For the cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 Tbsp baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (Grammy never uses salt)

  • 1/4 cup shortening

  • 3/4 cup milk

  • 2 eggs, beaten

  • 2 cups blueberries (I used frozen)

For the crumb topping:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

  • 1/4 cup softened butter

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar

  • 2 Tbsp melted butter

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  • water

How it's Done:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10" square baking pan.

  2. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt.

  3. Cut in shortening until the flour mixture resembles a baking mix (like Bisquick).

  4. Add milk and eggs. Stir well. Mixture will be thick!

  5. Fold in blueberries. Hint: If you're using frozen berries, toss them with flour before folding into batter. This will prevent your batter from turning purple!

  6. Pour into prepared pan. It will look lumpy. That's okay. Good, in fact.

  7. Make crumb topping: In a small bowl, combine all ingredients for crumb topping. Sprinkle evenly over top of cake.

  8. Bake for about 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

  9. Let the cake cool completely.

  10. Prepare the glaze by combining all the glaze ingredients. Add water, a tablespoonful at a time, until the glaze is a good drizzling consistency. Drizzle over cake. Let the glaze set before serving. Cake freezes well.

Yesterday, a Toe. Today, a Finger.

Day 53.

Did you read my post yesterday? My Little One hurt her toe. Today, my Big Kid was playing basketball in gym class and hurt her finger. It's all swollen and mildly bruised and mildly painful. I'm giving it overnight before I take her to the doctor, because it may not be broken. We'll see what it does overnight. It may just be "jammed."

Soccer practice was cancelled today due to squishy, muddy fields. We had an awesome thunderstorm early this morning that's to blame. However, since it was soccer day, I had a quick and simple meal planned, and I stuck with my plan. That's rare for me.

Simple Beef & Bean Burritos
serves 6


  • 1 lb lean ground beef

  • 1/2 a large onion, diced

  • 1/2 a green bell pepper, diced

  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil

  • 1 packet taco seasoning

  • 1/4 cup taco sauce

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 2 cans beans, rinsed and drained (any will do. We used white beans today because that's what I had on hand)

  • tortillas

  • shredded cheddar cheese

How it's Done:

  1. In a skillet, heat oil. Fry onion and pepper until they begin to soften.

  2. Add ground beef. Cook until the beef is no longer pink, mashing it into small bits as you go.

  3. Drain if you have extra fat. I use the very lean ground beef and do not drain it. Return to skillet.
    Add water, taco seasoning, beans, and taco sauce. Cook and stir 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

  4. Serve filling on tortillas with shredded cheese.

Menu Plan Monday 2/22 - 2/28

It's another Monday! It definitely feels like a Monday. I'm sleepy today because a big thunderstorm woke me up hours before my alarm had the chance to sound. After spending the evening in the emergency room last night, my Monday routine was thrown off course. Normally, I prepare outfits and pack lunches at night, as well as gathering library books and signing folders. I did all of that this morning instead. I'm thankful for the leftover Butter Pecan Waffles I had stowed away in the freezer for a busy morning!
This week presents minor challenges for me. First, my husband is in school all week, making his days longer. Also, we have soccer practice on Monday and Wednesday. Soccer practice is from 5:30 to 6:30 -- dinnertime. I'll need quick meals or slow cooker meals for those days. And finally, we've got a trip to Atlanta on Saturday to help my sister move. Breakfast will need to be in the car, and we'd do well to pack a lunch, too.
Here's what I've got planned for the week:
  • Huevos Rancheros
  • Baked Eggs in Ramekins
  • Baked Apple Pancake
  • English Muffins from scratch!!
  • Bagels & cream cheese
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly Oatmeal Bars
  • Butter-Pecan Waffles
  • French Onion Soup
  • Make Your Own Lunchables-style Pizzas
  • Red Beans & Rice
  • Chicken Noodle Soup
  • all other days will be leftovers for adults; lunchboxes for kids (sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, milk, juice, carrot sticks, apple sauce, home-baked goods, soup, bagels, and popcorn are typical in a week)
  • Chicken Divan
  • Honey-Nut Chicken over Vanilla Rice (planned last week but never got to)
  • Beef & Bean Burritos
  • Barbecue Ribs, Red Potatoes & Green Beans, and Biscuits
  • Cheesy Chicken over Rice
  • Biscuits with Hamburger Gravy
  • Black Bean Burgers, Salad, and Fresh Fruit
Planned Baking:
  • Blueberry Coffee Cake
  • Vanilla Almond Biscotti
  • Flower Pot Cupcakes
  • Lemon Quick Bread
  • Gingerbread Men
  • Rice Pudding


  • Make Your Own Frappucinos!

For more menu plans to spark your creative juices, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie. And come back here daily to see delicious recipes and detailed photography. Happy Cooking!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Boo Boos and BandAids and Dark Chocolate Syrup

Day 52.

When I was a kid, I was jumping on the couch when I careened off the side and landed face first on the coffee table. Eleven stitches later, I was back home and never -- I repeat, never -- jumped on the couch again.
Today, my kids were laughing in their room.

Then, there was no laughter, only shouts of, "I TOLD YOU NOT TO DO THAT!" and wailing. I called the wailer into my room and she explained to me that she was rolling on her bed and hit her toe on her dresser. I asked her if she needed a cuddle.

"No," she told me, "I'm fine."

"Well, I need a cuddle," I said. She climbed up onto my bed and curled into me for a good cuddle. She put her legs over mine and I reached down to move her little piggy toes so I could bend my knees.

There shouldn't be warm, sticky, wetness on her piggies. Quick. Check hand. Blood.

Oh. No.

Lots of blood.

Quick. Catch blood so it doesn't go all over bed! Look at floor. Bloody carpet. Call out to husband. Check toes. Deep puncture wound. Oh no, blood is now dripping down MY arms. Blood is coming too quick to catch.


Oh dear. I feel slightly dizzy. Oh good, there's Husband. With paper towels. Good.

Okay, let's see. Into the tub she goes. Wash, wash, wash.

"Needs emergency room."

"Maybe a stitch."

"Needs to be cleaned."

"Got the keys?"

"Yes, let's go."

Wrap kid's foot. Grab book. NEVER go to a waiting room without a book! Away we go. Wait. Have medical card? Yep. Okay. Wait. Phone? Yep. Okay. Away we go.

At the E.R., everyone moved quickly to assess the damage. By this time, the bleeding had subsided and was just an oozy spot. Gross, I know. Hardly FOOD blogging material. But above all, I'm a mom, and this was my day.

She didn't need a stitch, just a thorough cleaning and some jokes. When we were done, I looked at the clock and said to Husband, "Oh, good. I can still blog tonight." So here I am. :)

And just so we're off the blood before progressing, let me tell you that I am so looking forward to next month. I plan to tackle homemade versions of Oreo cookies, Fig Newtons, and Oatmeal Cream Pies, as well as play with sushi rice and seaweed and practice making shapes out of food.

Also, this week, I'm making some adorable flower basket cupcakes and gingerbread men. I can hardly wait. :)

Onto the syrup: This syrup is pretty basic. The only twist is that I use dark cocoa powder, making it richer and darker than, say, Hershey's. It's delicious and sinful and perfect on ice cream, in milk, or drizzled on bananas or strawberries.

Simple Dark Chocolate Syrup
  • 1 cup dark/dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt (I really wouldn't leave this out)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

How it's Done:

  1. Combine cocoa, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan. Add water. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir over medium heat for 2 full minutes.
  2. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.
  3. Pour into wide-mouth canning jar. Secure lid. Refrigerate.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Day 51.

I told you I'd post step-by-step bagel instructions this week. Thank you for hanging in there and waiting (im?)patienly. This is a fairly detailed recipe, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be pumping out bagels every week. They are so far superior to anything you can buy at the store. If you double the recipe, you'll be in bagels for the whole family for a while. I recommend you store your finished products in bread bags in the freezer and take them out as you want them.

Here's the bagel-making process I use.

Read through entirely before beginning.

Clear off a counter top to give yourself room. Get a large baking sheet ready (and line it with parchment if you'd like). Set a pot of water (a large stock pot) with 1/4 cup baking soda and a couple spoonfuls of sugar added on the stove. Find a big mixing bowl (I use my KitchenAid stand mixer, but this recipe is pretty easy to put together by hand if you don't have a stand mixer). Gather your ingredients.
Get some plates or bowls for your various toppings. For that matter, decide what toppings you'd like to use. I'll be using coarse salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, cinnamon-sugar, and cheddar cheese today. Put some of each desired topping in a separate small bowl, or a small plate.

Now you're ready to begin.
*Note: Using bread flour ensures that your dough will have adequate protein in it, which gives bread the stretch and binding that it needs. This is especially important in chewy breads like bagels.

Bagels: Step-by-Step Directions

  1. In your mixing bowl with the paddle attachment (or by hand with a wooden spoon), combine 4 cups bread flour, 1 Tbsp granulated sugar, 1 1/2 tsp sea salt, 2 tsp active dry yeast.

  2. Add 1 Tbsp vegetable oil and 1 1/3 to 1 1/2 cups warm water. Begin with the lesser amount of water and add the extra if you find your dough is too dry. Take paddle off and replace with dough hook if using stand mixer.

  3. Knead your dough. By hand, this takes about ten minutes. Knead it on a lightly floured surface. The stand mixer with dough hook will take slightly less time (mine took 6 minutes). You're looking for smooth dough that feels nice to the touch.

  4. Divide your dough into 8 pieces.

  5. Cover them and let them rest for about 15 or 20 minutes.

  6. Roll each piece of dough into a snake longer than your hand. Remember when you used to play with play dough? Same thing. I find it helps to slightly dampen the palms and fingers with warm water while doing this.

  7. Now, mush the ends together and roll smooth.

  8. Let them rest again, for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 425 degrees and start your water to boil.

  9. Now it's time to BOIL your bagels. Do a few at a time. Don't crowd them in the pot. Make sure your water is at a rolling boil before you begin. Boil one minute per side.
  10. Remove the bagels from the water, dip tops in whatever you wish to top your bagel with, and ...
  11. place on a baking sheet (sprayed with non-stick cooking spray or lined with parchment. Continue boiling until all your bagels are boiled and topped.

  12. Baking time! Pop your baking sheet full of freshly boiled bagels into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Now, flip them over and bake another 10 minutes.

  13. That's it! You have made bagels! See? It didn't take all that long, and it wasn't as hard as you expected, was it? Go grab some cream cheese and have at it!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Nifty Fifty

Day 50.

Day Fifty!! Halfway to Day 100! Remember, on Day 100, I'll be hosting my first giveaway, so stay tuned. I've been pondering what the giveaway should be. I know it's going to be something I consider important in the kitchen, and it will include food for sure...

On to today's delight.

Some ooey-gooey loveliness reminiscent of a campground favorite.

S'Mores Brownies


For the crust:

  • 15 graham cracker sheets

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup melted butter

For the dark chocolate brownie filling:

  • 2 cups of melted butter (yes, 2 full cups)

  • 1 cup of cocoa powder (dutch process/dark cocoa is best)

  • 2 1/2 cups of granulated sugar

  • 6 large eggs

  • 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract (make your own!)

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the topping:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows

How it's Done:

  1. Line a 9x11" baking dish with aluminum foil. Spray well with non-stick cooking spray. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

  2. While the butter is melting, turn your graham crackers into crumbs. Blend in the 1/4 cup sugar and then the 1/4 cup melted butter. Press into the bottom of the foil-lined pan. Set aside.

  3. To the melted 2 cups of butter, add the cocoa powder and the 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions. Stir in the vanilla extract and salt. Fold in the flour. Stir only as long as necessary to combine. Pour brownie batter over graham crust.

  4. Bake 35 minutes or until almost set in the middle. Remove from oven.

  5. Immediately top with chocolate chips then marshmallows. Set the pan under the broiler and broil a couple minutes until marshmallows are toasted lightly brown.

  6. Using the foil "handles," remove the brownies from the pan. Cut into squares and serve warm.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Be Gone Waffles??

Day 49.

My husband and I have been married a little over 11 years. we've had the same argument the entire duration of our marriage, and I suspect it will continue for the rest of our lives. It's the Pee Can / Puh-Kon debate. He thinks (wrongly, if I do say so myself) that the beloved Georgia nut is a Puh-KON. I say it's a PEE-can. He says, "Gross! It's a pie, not a toilet!" I say, "Just 'cuz it's good and you eat it quickly doesn't mean you call it a B'Gone Pie!" He says PEE-can sounds weird. I say Puh-KON sounds weird. And now our 6 year-old has gotten in on the debate as mediator. She calls it a PEE-Kon.

What do you call it?

Whatever you call it, here's a nummy breakfast over which you can debate the proper pronunciation of the word pecan.

I'm right, though. ;)
Butter Pecan Waffles
makes 8 waffles
For Waffle Batter:
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup pecans (toasted and finely chopped)
  • 4 Tbsp melted butter
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

For Syrup:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup toasted pecan halves

How it's Done:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, chopped pecans, and brown sugar. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk, butter, and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients, stirring to combine.
  2. Drop batter (a bit less than 1/2 cup is what I did per waffle on my iron) onto preheated waffle iron. Cook as your iron's manufacturer recommends. I cook mine on a Cuisinart on setting 4.
  3. While waffles are baking, prepare syrup. Combine water, butter, and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Cook and stir 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and pecans. Serve over waffles. Also makes a great ice cream or rice pudding topping!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More Health Food for the Picky Eater

Day 48.

My Picky Eater loves this recipe. So does my Meat-a-tarian Husband. And it's healthy. And it's meatless. Oh, and I think it's delicious, too. Score one for the Momma/Wifee.

Lentils 'N Rice Tacos

  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 of a medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup brown lentils (I've also used red lentils, but they cook faster and taste different)
  • 1 cup rice (NOT instant. Brown is good. Medium grain is great.)
  • 4 3/4 cups stock (vegetable, chicken, beef, whatever you like and whatever's on hand)
  • 1/4 cup taco sauce
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • tortillas/taco shells, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, salsa, and/or sour cream to serve

How it's Done:

  1. Heat oil in a 2 quart saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook and stir a few minutes until fragrant and onion begins to soften.
  2. Add lentils, rice, stock, taco sauce, chili powder, cumin, and black pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 30 to 45 minutes, or until lentils are soft.
  3. Remove from heat. Stir in green onions. Serve on taco shells or tortillas with desired toppings.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Trying New Things

Day 47.

I'm trying something new today. I've never made cheesecake. Ever. It looks scary. But I like to try new things. I like cheesecake. A lot. And I like expanding my repertoire. So what the heck. I'm going to try to make a New York style cheesecake. Right now.

Since I've never made one before, I won't be toying with any recipes or devising my own (but if this turns out well, you can bet I'll be back again to make my own recipes). Instead, I'll be using this recipe from Joy of Baking.

I'll take pictures as I go, so that if you find cheesecake intimidating, too, you can see each step as I go. I have been unable to find a site with adequate step-by-step photography, which I think is a must for tricky recipes or anything involving a spring form pan.

Cue Frankenstein music. Or any music that creates a mysterious, slightly frightening, mood. Here I go...

First things first: Find and grease a 9" spring form pan. Now set your oven to 350 degrees.

Next, you'll need to make your crust. Using your food processor, crumb some graham crackers until you have 2 cups of crumbs. For me, this took about 15 sheets. I used Honey Maid Honey Grahams. Add 1/2 cup of melted butter and 1/4 cup of sugar to your crumbs.

Mix this up to combine well. The directions at Joy of Baking say to use a medium mixing bowl. I find it easier to use something wide and shallow, like a pie dish. This enables me to see all the crumbs and use a fork to mix in the sugar and butter evenly.

Press your crust mixture onto the bottom and up an inch of the side of your springform pan:

Now, the directions say to cover your crust and stick it in the fridge while you're making your filling. I don't know if a chilled crust is imperative for cheesecake or not, but I'm not skipping any steps this time around.

On to the filling: Joy of Baking stresses this importance of beating at a low speed. This helps prevent your cheesecake from cracking during the baking process.

In your mixing bowl (I use a KitchenAid stand mixer, and consider it indispensible in my kitchen), dump 4- 8 ounce bricks of full-fat cream cheese, 1 cup of sugar, and 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour.
Here's where it's confusing. In the notes before the recipe, I'm encouraged to use low speed to mix. In the recipe, I'm told to use medium speed. I'm going with medium low. Anyway, mix the cheese, sugar, and flour, for two minuets, scraping the sides of the mixing bowl as needed.

Now, add five eggs, one at a time. Mix the filling well between additions. The recipes says to beat for 30 seconds between eggs, so it will take a few minutes to get all the eggs in there. I'm taking my time with it.

Now, add in 1 tablespoon of freshly grated lemon zest, 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, and 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream. Beat the filling until it's combined well.

Don't cheat. Use real lemon zest.

Here's what it will look like when it's mixed:

Creamy, smooth, and off-white. And very runny.

Go get your spring form pan with the crust ready. Put the pan on a baking sheet. Pour your filling into the crust.

Stick it in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Then, reduce the heat to 250 degrees and continue baking another 90 (90!!) minutes. After I reduced the heat, I set my timer for 75 minutes so I can check it before continuing on to the full 90 minutes. Just in case.

It ended up taking the full 90 minutes, and came out a gorgeous golden yellow color.

I followed the instructions that told me to loosen it from the edges of the pan with a knife. I let it cool on the counter, then covered it and put it in the fridge. Boy! Was that hard to do! I wanted to taste it!

----->>>> Fast forward to present time! The cheesecake's been in the fridge all day and all yesterday afternoon and evening. It's ready to be served!

For good measure, I took a moment to run the spatula around the edge of the pan before taking the side off.

It's perfect! And gorgeous! And wonderful! I'm giddy with excitement as I cut a piece of cheesecake.

(Note: use a warm knife to cut. Wet and wipe -- warm water and a clean paper towel -- between slices.)


Gilding the lily -- I drizzled homemade dark chocolate syrup on top of my slice. Yes, I have that recipe to share another time. :)

Go to the store and get the ingredients. You must make this cheesecake.

Go. Now.

Do it.

You'll be glad you did.

Really. It's not that hard. I can't believe it took me so long to try.

One more gratuitous picture...

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