Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pecan Fudge Brownies

This is an adaptation of a Martha Stewart Everyday Food recipe which was submitted by one of her readers. I chose to use salted instead of unsalted butter and I used semisweet chocolate morsels instead of a combination of unsweetened and semisweet chocolate. I really like this recipe because you can pretty much make these at the last minute with staple items from your kitchen. They are chewy, moist, and rich in chocolate flavor.

Pecan Fudge Brownies
1 stick butter
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
4 oz semisweet chocolate morsels
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8" square baking dish and line with parchment, leaving an overhang on two sides. Grease the parchment and set aside.
2. Place butter and chocolate in a bowl and microwave until melted, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in sugars, eggs, vanilla, flour, and half of the pecans. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with remaining pecans.
3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes. Cool completely. Lift out brownie in parchment and cut into 16 squares.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Easy and Fabulous Apple Dumplings

My friend Belinda told me about this recipe, so I scavenged the internet to find it and found innumerable versions of it. The odd and secret ingredient for this is Mountain Dew. This was easy to make and absolutely fabulous. The pastry (crescent roll) was crunchy and the apple inside was very tart (granny smith). It makes its own yummy syrup that is sweet and delicious served on top of the dumpling and the ice cream.

Apple Dumplings

2 cans Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and each sliced into 8 wedges (you will have some left over)
2 sticks of butter
1 -1/2 cups of sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
8 oz Mountain Dew

Beginning at wide end, roll each apple wedge in a crescent roll. Place in a greased baking dish. Mix together melted butter, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Pour over rolls. Pour Mountain Dew around the rolls. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes. Serve with ice cream.
Yield: 12 dumplings (this is really 6 servings)

Roll apple wedge up in crescent roll:

Place in a greased baking dish:

Combine butter mixture:

Pour over dumplings:
Pour Mountain Dew around them:

Bake at 350 for 35 minutes. They will be golden brown and will smell amazing at this point:

Serve with ice cream (my personal favorite is Breyers Natural Vanilla). Spoon syrup on top:

Monday, January 26, 2009

White Chocolate Chunk Butterscotch Brownies

This is a wonderful recipe adapted from Brownies to Die For by Bev Shaffer. These have a crunchy, buttery top and a moist gooey center filled with white and dark chocolate. They are fabulous served with vanilla ice cream.

White Chocolate Chunk Butterscotch Brownies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1 -1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
5 oz white chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 oz semisweet chocolate morsels

1. Beat butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix.

2. Add flour, baking powder, and salt, a little at a time, at low speed, and mix just until combined. Stir in chocolates. Line a 13 x 9" pan with greased parchment paper and spread batter onto the parchment.

3. Bake for 25 minutes or until top is done and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Cool pan completely on a wore rack. Cut into bars.

I used Baker's white chocolate the first time and Ghirardelli the second time. I personally thought the Ghirardelli tasted richer and creamier.

Beat ingredients together with a mixer:

Coarsely chop the white chocolate:

Add the chocolate morsels:

Spread batter onto a parchment paper-lined pan. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My Favorite Chili

This is an adaptation of a recipe I found in a Taste of Home magazine several years ago. It has a few ingredients, such as bay leaves, cumin, corn, and mushrooms, which are a little unusual for your basic chili recipe. It is very hearty and flavorful and is great for company.

My Favorite Chili
1 lb ground chuck
1 lb sausage, sliced and quartered
1 small onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
4 cups water
1 can tomato paste
1 can tomato sauce
1 can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cans dark red kidney beans, drained
1 small pkg sliced mushrooms
1 - 1/2 cups white shoepeg corn (canned or frozen)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp oregeno
1 tbsp paprika
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

In a large stock pot, brown the ground chuck, sausage, bell pepper, garlic, and onion until done.
Remove and drain on paper towels. Return to pot and add remaining ingredients. Simmer for about 30 minutes.
Yield: about 10 servings

Brown the ground chuck, sausage, onion, bell pepper and garlic:

Drain on paper towels and return to pot. Add remaining ingredients:

This is delicious served with cornbread and is great left over.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Snickerdoodle Muffins

I have loved snickerdoodle cookies since I was a child.
When I found this recipe at Peabody,which is a wonderful food blog, I knew I had to try them. And I wasn't disappointed. They are crunchy on top and moist and delicious inside.

Snickerdoodle Muffins

2 sticks butter
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 and 1/4 cups sour cream
2 and 1/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar and 2 tbsp cinnamon mixed together for rolling
1. Cream the butter and sugar until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time and mix until incorporated.

2. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cream of tartar.

3. Add the flour mixture and the sour cream alternately to the egg mixture.

4. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out the muffin batter and drop into a bowl with the cinnamon mixture. Roll the muffin around in the mixture until it is covered completely in cinnamon sugar. Place muffin in a greased muffin tin. Bake at 350 for 20-22 minutes.

Yield: 12-15 muffins

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Place Cards with Handmade Snowflakes

As promised in my previous post, I am going to show how I made the place cards for my winter table.

Supplies needed:
1 piece of white card stock
glue (I like Alene's Tacky Glue)
sparkly glitter
Martha Stewart Snowflake Punch (Michael's)
heavy card stock or textured paper in a cool color
3-D dots

Brush glue onto card stock. Add a small amount of water to make it spread smoothly.

Pour glitter onto the glue and allow to dry completely. Then punch snowflakes out:

I used a glitter I've had for years called Prisma Glitter. It has an opalescent look to it:

I found this cool textured paper on sale at Michael's. I thought it looked like a night sky, which would be a good background for the snowflakes. I cut it into the size I wanted (3-1/2 x 5-1/2) and folded it over. I cut pieces from the card stock and attached them to the place card with 3-D dots and wrote each person's name on them. You can also print names on the computer. Then I attached the snowflake to the top left corner with another 3-D dot:

Monday, January 12, 2009

An Uncommon Winter Tablescape

Just because Christmas is over certainly doesn't mean that winter is. Here in the south, January and February can be our coldest months, and they are not my favorites. So, in order to add some cheery coziness to my kitchen during these otherwise bleak months, I decorated my table with a whimsical winter theme. When I create a theme, I just think of all the components that comprise it and then just build on it. For winter, I thought of cozy blankets, gloves, scarves, snowflakes, and warm candlelight.

For starters, I used a dark brown tablecloth, which I know you can't see in this photo. Then over that I used a soft, fuzzy cream throw blanket:

For the candles, I used the ones I covered with the tube scarf, which I posted about in December:

I used a combination of elements for the snow which were bagged fake snow, clear round stones, and snowflakes I made, which I will feature in my next post.

I wrapped my silverware in napkins like this:

Then slipped them into a glove at each place setting. You could use paper or cloth napkins. I found these cute gloves at Target for $1.04 for 2 pair. I also took the opportunity to use my Fiesta Ware, which I love. I just think the colors are fun.

I found these salt and pepper shakers several years ago, and I usually use them out on the porch in the summertime. But they matched my color scheme really well. I bought colorful felt at Michael's and cut it into strips for their scarves. I snipped out some fringe on the ends of them.
Now they will be warm.
I used a different color glove for each place setting. I show how to make the place cards on a separate post.

So, if you tend to get the winter blahs like I do, have fun with some winter touches for your table.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Hoppin' John

Happy New Year everyone! This is a recipe that is great for New Year's Day as well as any other time. I had never been a huge fan of the black-eyed pea, I think because my mom only served canned ones. I used frozen peas for this and they were delicious. I highly recommend Colonel Paul's Creole seasoning for this recipe. He lives here in Birmingham and is the husband of a very good friend of mine. You can find his seasonings at most local grocery stores.

Hoppin' John

1 lb frozen black-eyed peas
2 smoked ham hocks
1 medium onion, divided
1 clove garlic (or 1 tsp minced garlic)
2 bay leaves
1 cup brown rice, cooked
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped (optional)
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (optional)
2 tsp Creole seasoning
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1-1/2 to 2 cups diced ham

1. In a large Dutch oven or kettle, combine the black-eyed peas, ham hocks, and 6 cups water. Chop 1/2 of the onion and add it to the pot along with the garlic and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until the beans are tender but not mushy, about 1- 1/2 hours. Remove the ham hocks. Drain the peas and set aside. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

2. Add 2 1/2 cups of water to the pot and bring to a boil. Add the rice and cook according to package directions.

3. Mince the remaining onion and add to the rice along with the peas, tomatoes, and their juices, bell pepper, celery, jalapeno pepper, Creole seasoning, thyme, cumin, and salt. Cook for about 10 minutes. Stir in the diced ham.

Serve with hot sauce and freshly baked cornbread.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Magical Christmas in Tulsa

We went to Tulsa to spend Christmas with Amby and Nathan this year. Amby brought it to our attention that it was the first time any of us had been away from Birmingham at Christmas time. Weird.

Amby had her house very cozy and festive. She had this tiny village on her kitchen counter.

Next to the village were some vintage Ball jars filled with candies. She called it her "candy bar."
Yes, Amby is skilled in the use of double entendre.

Just minutes after we arrived at our hotel, Amby brought us this wonderful basket filled with treats, such as her homemade pumpkin bread, panetonne from Nathan's mom and dad, and a special stash of my own Double Bubble. Ally (our Yorkie) went with us and there was even a bag of treats for her.

We celebrated Christmas on the 26th. Amby and Nathan had a beautiful Christmas tree.

Sherman quickly found a use for the gift boxes.

And he really liked the new fort (Mystery Triangle) I bought for all the kitties. He thought it was just for him.

Amby made a sumptuous pork tenderloin which tasted as good as it looks here.

She also made mashed potatoes, dressing, and her famous corn fritters. She wanted me to relax, so all she would let me make was a green bean casserole. She is very sweet.

We went on many adventures in the days following this Christmas celebration, which included shopping trips, scenic sightseeing, sampling new restaurants, and MAYBE a casino visit.

We had a very nice time and it was fun to do something totally different for Christmas. Thank you Amby and Nathan!