Friday, December 25, 2015

Croissants Singing Hallelujah with Ham and Blueberries

I am really blessed to be friends with Lisa Ghenne.  I knew her before she ever started her blog, The Cutting Edge of Ordinary.  I love her cooking and baking, but honestly, I just love her, and the best part is that she loves me, too.  I've made a recipe she posted a couple of years ago, actually, she posted a link to a third blog.  I have wanted to play with this recipe and finally have.  Here is my adaptation of her delicious recipe, it's perfect for Christmas morning.  Enjoy!

Blueberry Ham Croissant Casserole

10 cups of croissants, torn up in small pieces (small croissants were torn into about 8 pieces each, FYI)
2  8 oz packages of cream cheese, brought to room temperature
1 1/3 cup of sugar
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups whole milk or half and half
2 cups frozen blueberries
1 cup ham, cut in small cubes

Set oven to 350 F

Fill large casserole dish with torn croissant pieces, add frozen blueberries and ham and toss to combine. In a large bowl use a mixer to blend cream cheese and eggs until smooth.  Add vanilla and milk and mix to combine.  Pour over the croissant, berry and ham.  Carefully use a rubber scraper to turn everything at least once to combine.   Let stand for 30 minutes, or refrigerate overnight.  If chilled, you might want to take it out of the fridge 30-60 minutes before baking.  

Bake for 40-50 minutes uncovered, check center, if it is still wet (mine was) cover with tin foil and bake 10 more minutes.  

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Pixie's Blue Muffins

I found the recipe for these muffins the year I got married and made them frequently enough that they became "my way" of making muffins.  Feel free to substitute fruit, citrus and if you add nuts, just take some space in the 1.5 cups for fruit, maybe 1 cup fruit and 1/2 cup nuts.  I have not made these muffins in recent years.  Other things have always been higher on my list, including not making a dozen large muffins for a family of three who are trying to eat a little healthier than I used to!  This week is not the time for that.  Having been focused on health more in the past few years, I felt great about making a treat like this for Christmas Eve morning.

I often begin recipes like this the night before.  Streusel and dry ingredient mix were done and sitting in bowls on the kitchen counter.  Muffin pan was out, egg was left out overnight and lemons sat on the zester so it was ready to grate early in the process.  All other ingredients were pulled from the pantry and by my own error, not all the measuring cups were pulled out, but here's a confession, I don't always get things right.  I find this kind of prep makes it easy to get up and put the recipe together and into the oven.  It also means I have everything I need.  Enjoy!

Pixie's Blueberry Muffins

Set oven to 400 F and prepare a large muffin tin.  I recommend using muffin paper liners AND greasing the top level of the pan, these lovely muffins rise a lot.

Struesel Topping:
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon soft butter
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts)

In a small bowl mix all these ingredients together until well blended and set aside.

Blueberry Muffins:
Dry Ingredients
2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine these in a bowl and set aside.

Wet ingredients
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon of citrus zest (lemon or orange work well with blueberries)
1 egg, room temperature is easiest to combine
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla

In a larger bowl whisk these ingredients until well combined, add dry ingredients and make sure you mix well, I like a rubber scraper.  Then add:

1 3/4 cups frozen blueberries

Gently mix the blueberries into the batter and using almost a cup measure, I fill each muffin cup completely.  Bake for 15 minutes and then without opening the door turn the temperature down to 350 F for another 10-15 until muffins are done.  Set on a rack until cool enough to lift out of pan (if you can stand the wait!) and allow to cool completely.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Shall we take a trip to the dump? Dump Bars Recipe

We had a crazy weekend last week.   (Um, October is a crazy month for high school marching bands.  Every post I make this month might start with a "crazy weekend" sentence!) Katie Blue was performing at a game on Friday night and then had to be up very early, hair and make-up at least started and get on a bus to make it to the competition site before 9:00.  They had to wait all day to find out the results of the daytime performance and know if they would perform in the finals competition of the evening.  It was Wednesday of last week when I started asking myself what on earth I was going to make for Sunday when I wasn't going to have time on Saturday night to get it done.  (And, if I was out to midnight, would I really want to get up on Sunday morning at 4:30 to do something, let it cool, cut it and plate it for an 8:30 departure time?  Um, no.)

I began searching recipes for things I could do on Saturday morning or even on Friday that would wait patiently for Sunday morning delivery.  It had to be moist but not sticky.  Of course it had to be tasty.  What on earth would I make?  I started thinking about some of the things from my childhood and for whatever reason it lead me to a book I own called "The Church Potluck Supper Cookbook" by Elaine Robinson and started to flip through it.  It makes me laugh because I honestly don't know when or where I got this book and I can't tell you what drew me to it this month, but I promise you I will be using it more in the future.  There were some great dessert recipes and lots of interesting recipes for meals that don't have sugar, chocolate and nuts in them.  

I was able to make these bars early on Saturday morning and leave them cooling while we were at the competition.  I cut and plated them when I got back to the house Saturday evening and went to bed grateful to be able to "sleep in" to 6:00 AM!!  Enjoy!

Dump Bars

2 sticks butter
1 pound brown sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups, plus 1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used almonds in one pan, walnuts in another, both worked.)
1 cup chocolate chips

Set oven to 325 F and grease a 9 x 13" pan.
Melt butter, add sugar and stir to combine.  Add eggs, vanilla and salt.  Mix well.  In a smaller bowl combine flour, baking powder and coconut and add it to the liquids.  Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle the top with nuts and chocolate chips.  Bake 35-40 minutes.  

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Italian Sour Cream Cookies

I was doing some research for Italian dessert recipes and found this cookie recipe.  To me it read like a sugar cookie except it doesn't take much sugar.  I became curious and decided to make it for my Sunday gig.  Have I mentioned how much I enjoy having a regular job that allows me to make whatever I want to make?  I *love* it because I get to play with new recipes for a large audience that tells me what they think by how much gets eaten in three hours.  I can tell you, I tasted this cookie and loved it so much it will become part of my Christmas platters.  I hope you try it and enjoy it, too.

I will say that this recipe doesn't make nearly as many cookies as I expected based on notes in the original recipe I was using.  A single recipe is supposed to make 2 dozen cookies.  Since you can make this and put 20 on a half sheet pan I am giving you the measurements for a double recipe.

On the other hand, these were 74 of the most delicious cookies I've made (that didn't include chocolate) in a long while.  The sour cream was just enough of a tang and the low sugar was a benefit in my book.  I am providing you with my version of this recipe, which is a double of the original (because who would want to come out with at least 36 delicious cookies?)

The other change I made was about forming the cookies.  The directions said to chill the dough and roll it out and cut it.  Well, seriously, I thought about it.  I thought I would roll it out and use a ruler and my rotary pastry cutter with the ruffled edge to make square cookies.  When I got busy doing these however the Gators football game was on and I didn't want to take the time.  (True confession.) I used a small dough scoop and then pressed them flat with a meat tenderizer.  (This is not the first time I have shown you creative ways to use a meat pounder in baking!)  It made cookies that were the 1/4" depth and with rough edges.  They reminded me of something my not-Italian memere would make and that made me VERY happy.  I can't believe I didn't take a picture of the finished cookies, but I will make this recipe again and add those photos when I can.  Enjoy!

This recipe is super easy to put together and I am expecting to make a bunch of them and freeze them in the months ahead.  Enjoy!

Italian Sour Cream Cookies 

Yield:  4 dozen

2 sticks of butter, best if warmed to room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
crystalized sugar (optional)

Set your oven to 350F

Cream butter, sugar and sour cream until fully combined.

Add yolks and vanilla and repeat.

Add remaining ingredients and mix just until it is combined.  (FYI: I like to combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl, just to make the mixing in happen without worrying that the baking powder and soda are equally distributed.)

Using a scoop or a table spoon (I use Pampered Chef small scoop) put 20 balls of dough on a large sheet pan.  Gently press each ball of dough with something hard and flat.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden at the edges.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Sally's Peach Muffins

Sally's Baking Addiction has inspired me more than once.  This recipe grabbed my attention one day when I was researching peach anything because I wanted something, anything that wasn't peach cobbler.  I have loved this one so much I never tried another one.  Now, if you go to her site, you will see I don't quite make the muffins the way she does.  Once again, I have a muffin calling for struesel topping which I apparently am not capable of doing right.  My topping always ends up a coating instead of crumbs.  I keep playing with it.  My muffins are also very flat topped, which would be less appealing if they weren't delicious, but they really are very good tasting.  Having said that, I often don't bother with the creamy piping.  It all depends on whether I want it to look beautiful.  Honestly, I find these sweet and wonderful without an extra whisper of sugar.  

My dear friend Sandy gets credit for getting this into my blog.  She had a huge event to make muffins for and asked me for an idea.  This is the one I sent her, I'm glad it worked!  

Sally's Peach Muffins 

1/3 c. brown sugar
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 c. butter, melted
2/3 c. flour

Combine all and set aside.

1/2 c. unsalted butter, soft
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 c. yogurt... I use plain full fat greek yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 & 3/4 c. flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 T. milk
1 1/2 c. frozen peach slices... I live in Georgia and still I buy frozen peaches for this recipe  

Set oven to 425 F and prepare a 12 muffin pan, either grease it well or use muffin liners.  Beat butter until smooth and add sugars, beat until mixture is light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, then add yogurt and vanilla.  Beat until fully mixed, scraping the bottom of the bowl as needed.  

In a large bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice and salt.  Pour wet ingredients over the dry and hand mix the two.  When it gets stiff add milk and then just before done add the peaches and mix.  

Divide the batter evenly, make sure the cups are filled completely.  Use streusel crumbs heavily.  

Bake for 5 minutes at 424F and then turn the baking temp to 350F and bake for 15-20 minutes.  They should be beautifully browned and crisp at the edges.

Glaze is optional but if you want to make it here's the way:  
1 c. powdered sugar  
3 T.  heavy cream 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Spoon the muffin batter evenly between all 12 muffin tins. There may be enough to make a 13th muffin in a 2nd batch, depending if there were a few extra peach chunks thrown in. Fill the muffin tins until they are full all the way up to the top. Press a handful of the crumb topping into the top of each; crumble it with your hands to make some big chunks.
  2. Bake for 5 minutes at 425F degrees, don't open the oven, just lower the oven temperature to 350F degrees and bake for 15-19 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  3. Make the glaze: whisk all of the ingredients together and drizzle over warm muffins.
  4. Make ahead tip: Muffins stay soft, fresh, and moist at room temperature for up to 5 days. Muffins freeze well for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and heat up (if desired) before enjoying.
has inspired me more than once.  This recipe grabbed my attention one day when I was researching peach muffins because I wanted something, anything that wasn't peach cobbler.  I have loved this one so much I never tried another one.  Now, if you go to her site, you will see I don't quite make the muffins the way she does.  Once again, I have a muffin calling for struessel topping which I apparently am not capable of doing right.  My topping always ends up a coating instead of crumbs.  I keep playing with it.  My muffins are also very flat topped, which would be less appealing if they weren't delicious, but they really are very good tasting.  Having said that, I often don't bother with the creamy piping.  It all depends on whether I want it to look beautiful.  Honestly, I find these sweet and wonderful without an extra whisper of sugar.  

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Pecan Pineapple Coffee Cake

This is a great recipe.  The woman who submitted it to All Recipes is named Alice which made me smile.  That was my mom's name and she LOVED coffee cake.  Thanks for sharing this, Alice.

I made only a few changes on the fly.  First of all because of the number of servings I had to make I tripled the recipe and cooked using half-sheet pans which were perfect to hold the amount of batter I had.  The other change is that I chopped the pecan topping in the food processor.  The recipe calls for chopped pecans, but their picture shows whole ones.  One note, the topping gets scattered by hand, it is not a thick crumbly topping like most coffee cakes call for.  (It would need butter and higher volume, IMO.)

In the future I will make another change.  I felt the pineapple made spots in the cake that were almost wet, and that was after fully draining the cans of pineapple.  In the future I will take the added step of cutting the tidbits smaller, perhaps into four pieces each and allowing them to sit, perhaps for an hour or more before using them.  This will allow pineapple to get into more of the cake and keep it from making the squares challenging to cut neatly.  As I'm typing I'm thinking I might try using crushed pineapple... hmmmm.

Of course, I am the one who cares about how pretty the pieces look, everyone who commented thought they tasted great.  Enjoy!

Pecan Pineapple Coffee Cake
recipe image
Rated: rating
Submitted By: alice
Photo By: lutzflcat
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 25 Minutes
Ready In: 1 Hour 10 Minutes
Servings: 9
"Pineapple bits and pecans give this coffee cake a tropical taste, and it's a delicious accompaniment to a hot cup of coffee or tea."
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups pineapple tidbits in juice,
drained and juice reserved
1/3 cup reserved pineapple juice
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup brown sugar
1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking dish.
2.Combine flour, white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk egg, yogurt, canola oil, and vanilla extract in another bowl until smooth. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture until just blended. Add 1/3 cup reserved pineapple juice and fold in pineapple tidbits until batter is just mixed; pour into prepared baking dish.
3.Stir pecans and remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar in a small bowl; sprinkle over batter.
4.Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or completely cool.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Rice Krispies Treat Secrets

You surely don't need a recipe for these old favorites, although I will post the one that has been published on the Rice Krispies boxes for as long as I know.  It's easy to make these, easy to add additions for color or flavor and very easy to cut and serve them if you have a few ideas.  Here is some of what I do after years of practice.

First of all, for events I make my in a half sheet pan, not the thicker 9x13 pan that is suggested.  This is certainly the depth to do if I have to cut particular shapes like hearts.  Also, I find it is easier to get more neat pieces out of the more shallow pan.  Anything that actually cuts into the krispies would be making cleaner cuts if it's been sprayed with PAM.

Second, when the krispies are mixed and laid out in the pan I cover it with plastic wrap and then use something flat to press them as even as possible.  I found that if I only use my hands I never get them as smooth as I would like.  The plastic wrap keeps them smooth and my meat pounder clean.

Third, when they have sat for a while and cooled I cut them using a ruler to measure my pieces.  Whether you want 3" blocks or 1x2" pieces a ruler can help you make beautiful cuts.  I use a ruler that used to be for quilting but has had lines wear off.  I can put on a line of masking tape (or in this case a few sticky notes) to mark my desired size.  While the krispies are covered with plastic wrap I use a bread board scraper as my knife and mark the rows by pressing against the plastic wrap into the bars.  Amazing enough, the plastic does not tear or get caught in the bars.  I then turn the pan and do the same thing again.  Now I can remove the plastic wrap and cut fully along the lines I marked.  I usually take out the first four because after that getting them out is much easier.  The pretty bars are easy to fully cut and remove from the pan onto a plate.  Enjoy!

Rice Krispies Recipe

3 tablespoons butter 
1 package (10 oz., about 40) JET-PUFFED Marshmallows 
6 cups Kellogg's® Rice Krispies® cereal
1. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

2. Add KELLOGG'S RICE KRISPIES cereal. Stir until well coated.

3. Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. Best if served the same day.

In microwave-safe bowl heat butter and marshmallows on HIGH for 3 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes. Stir until smooth. Follow steps 2 and 3 above. Microwave cooking times may vary.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Should have been Blueberry Coffee Cake

In what could only be called a comical error, I made this coffee cake successfully, but forgot to add the blueberries.  Seriously, I just forgot to take them out of the freezer when I was getting things ready, because as usual I mixed the dry ingredients together, all the topping ingredients (which got chilled) and pulled the eggs and buttermilk so they would come to room temp hours before I actually made the cake.  I was tired when I was putting it all together and didn't even think of grabbing the blueberries out of the freezer.  It was a delicious cake, but NOT a blueberry cake!  Enjoy!


1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup almonds, sliced, slivered, blanched, or roasted.  The only thing I wouldn't use is smoked and that MIGHT have some possibilities, but not tonight.  LOL

If using whole almonds, go ahead and run them through the food processor for a few pulses to get them going toward breaking up.  Otherwise, add all ingredients to the bowl and give them a whirl until it’s combined.  Set aside.  If you use sliced almonds you might want to wait until close to the end of combining but I promise you, I used them tonight and didn’t find them disappearing.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick melted butter
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk 
grated zest of one lemon
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Set oven to 350F  
Prepare 9x9 pan with butter or PAM.

In one medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and 
salt.  In mixer bowl combine melted butter, sugar, vanilla,
buttermilk and lemon zest.  Turn on the mixer and let it get well
blended.  Add eggs one at a time, making sure they get completely
combined.  Take bowl from mixer and use a rubber scraper to add
flour mixture.  Gently stir in the blueberries and spread batter in
pan.  Sprinkle with topping mixture and bake for 40-50 minutes.  

Let cool before slicing.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Pecan Shortbread Cookies

I was invited to make some cookies that would represent Georgia in a few baskets for quilt judges coming to town for the greatest show in the state.  (Yes, that is my humble opinion.)  Our quilts (more than 325 of them!) were the star of that week, but I'm glad my cookies gave a little of the local sparkle to the important ladies who chose the winning the quilts.

Pecan Shortbread Cookies

3 sticks of butter, brought to room temperature
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
3 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/4 t. salt 
1 1/2 c. chopped pecans (I use my food processor on toasted whole pecans)

In mixer blend butter and sugar, do not over beat.  Add vanilla, almond extract and salt.  Mix just to combine.  Add flour and again, mix to combine.  Take bowl from mixer and add the pecans by hand.  I use a rubber scraper to get the best possibility of getting pecans throughout the dough.  

Lay a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper on the counter.  Turn the dough out and form a log 2" wide and wrap in plastic or waxed paper.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or overnight.  

Set oven to 350 F

Slice the log in 1/4" slices and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  These will not rise or spread much so you can place them closer than you would for chocolate chip cookies.  Bake 20-25 minutes, until edges are lightly browned.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A non-baked, non-dessert entry... hmmm, a salad with no lettuce

I haven't ever shared a recipe that wasn't a dessert and I don't even really have a recipe to share and yet here is the dish that I have had so often this summer I felt it was time to share it with anyone who may also have a garden and need a thought that might not already be in her mind.

Literally, this is cut up tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and feta cheese.  It is dressed with which ever vinegar I like (I've been loving red wine vinegar, but have also used balsamic, spice infused balsamic, rice wine vinegar and cider vinegar.) and oil, usually EVOO but at least once it was just a little canola oil.  Pinches of salt, pepper, and whatever herbs you like.  Hubby likes basil or rosemary. I like them and thyme and oregano.  At least once I used a little cardamom (obviously not from my garden) and I haven't found a thing that didn't work well.  

Lettuce was gone from my garden back in May but this way salad continues straight into September.  This can be used as a side dish, as a lunch, it can be packed in a pita or rolled in a tortilla with a little roast chicken or pork from the night before.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Katie Blue's Special Chocolate Brownies

Now, let me say that I have found Baker's One Bowl Brownies to be wonderful  I've used many variations with add-ins.  My daughter on the other hand has developed a desire for a more chocolate brownie.  She has liked the Ghirardelli Brownie mix for a while now and I have to tell you I understand where she's coming from but I'd rather mess with my standby recipe and see if I can do something good with it.  Turns out I could.  Nice to know that when I'm making a LOT of brownies for a bunch of marching band kids I find a way to impress my daughter, too.  Enjoy!

Katie Blue's Special Chocolate Brownies

4 oz Baker's Unsweetened Chocolate (one small box or 4 blocks of chocolate from a large box)
1.5 sticks of butter
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 c. flour
1/4 c. Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. mini chocolate chips

Do not use a mixer, I promise this goes together fast with a wooden spoon and produces the best brownie dense texture if not over mixed once you add the flour.

Set oven 350 F

Prepare a 13x9 pan with butter or Pam.  (Are you kidding?  Use butter, I promise it makes a difference.)

In a bowl combine flour, cocoa, salt and chocolate chips.  Set aside.

Break Baker's chocolate into large bowl, microwave for 30 seconds.  Add butter, microwave again for 30 seconds.  Stir and continue until all is melted and nicely combined.

Add sugar and mix then add eggs, stirring after each addition to combine.

Add flour mixture and scraping the bottom of the bowl, make sure you are getting everything combined.

Pour into prepared pan, spread evenly.  Bake 30-35 minutes (or until your house smells chocolate fragrant) a toothpick should give you some crumbly bits.  I use a quarter sheet pan and find that the 30 minutes are sufficient.  Baker's Chocolate warns you to not over bake their brownies.  LOL

Better Strawberry Pie

Honestly I've been too busy to type much this summer, but I have been baking and you will benefit dramatically as I get caught up with the pictures I have taken and get recipes or pointers posted.

A true story:  When we were dating, which was a long time ago, Hubby used to talk about the great fresh strawberry pies he enjoyed in Florida.  Living up north, some how it wasn't something I had even heard about, much less eaten and I certainly hadn't ever made it.  By an act of God a college friend Hubby thought the world of lived a few blocks away from me.  Jamye was a a great lady and she could make a lot of southern things.  She was kind enough to share her recipe for strawberry pie with me.  I made it and it didn't work.  I tried it again, it still didn't work.  It was so long ago I can't even remember what didn't work, only that it didn't impress Hubby and I didn't care for it.  After we were married I tried for a couple of years to find a recipe and ultimately decided to leave this one for trips to Florida because there were many other things to make.  This spring Hubby mentioned that he would like a strawberry pie and for whatever reason I began doing some research.  I toyed with a couple of recipes and cobbled together the one that is now known as "Better Strawberry Pie".  I hope you enjoy it!
One perfect slice of the better strawberry pie.

Better Strawberry Pie 

1 baked pie shell 

4 c. fresh strawberries

1 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. water
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 c. strawberry jello powder

Heavy cream kept very cold

In saucepan whisk cornstarch, water and sugar until smooth.  Place on medium high heat and bring to a boil.  Whisk until mixture is thickened, about one minute.  Take pan off the heat and set aside to cool for two hours.

Meanwhile, select the prettiest of the strawberries and set it aside.  All the rest should be hulled and halved.  Arrange these in the pie shell with the one as the center of your artwork.  You can place this in the fridge but I just leave it on the counter waiting for the gelatin baptism.

When the sauce is no longer warm slowly pour it over the berries, make sure each berry gets coated.  Don't worry about the way the gelatin pools, I promise you it evens itself out as you gets it around.  I confess, the first one of these pies had me spooning gelatin sauce over each berry.  I've learned that just isn't necessary.  Use every bit of sauce. (That means use a rubber scraper to clean out your saucepan.)  Put the pie in the fridge for at least an hour and then whip the amount of cream you think you will need.  Honestly I'd rather whisk up enough for two slices and save the rest for fresh whipping the following day but you can do as you choose, maybe you'll even cover the whole pie with whipped cream.  What I know for sure is that you will love this if you love strawberries.  Enjoy!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Banana Bread Hunt

The last time I made banana bread I made four different recipes in one afternoon.  Crazy?  Well, yes I suppose it was.  I'm not a big fan of the stuff, although Hubby likes it.  I had a LOT of bananas in my freezer because I like to have fresh ones in the house, but inevitably a few times a month one or two don't get eaten and I won't throw them away.  Two or three times a year I try to make something with them and that time it was banana bread.  Well, today is my second go at the stuff in a year.  It's not like I dislike banana bread, I just haven't found a recipe that really makes me glad to have it on a plate in my own kitchen.  Until today.

My dear friend Lisa has the most incredible blog of all my friends who are bloggers.  (I'm saying, take her seriously folks and you will have fun and lots of successful recipes.) She was kind to me when I mentioned I needed a banana bread recipe need.  Turns out she has a trick technique for banana bread.  You ready?

She whips the bananas.

Seriously?  Yes, seriously.

You will find her recipe here.

Now I will tell you that I wish I had not been so tired when I was making this bread.  I multiplied the recipe by four and by the time I had whisked my bananas, gotten the fluffy goodness out of the mixing bowl so I could do the next thing I forgot to take a picture of how AMAZING it looked.  If I had not been tired I would be telling you how easily this bread gets made.  Instead, I'm just going to tell you that I'm actually thrilled to have half a loaf leftover from my usual order.  Well, now it's half a loaf with one less slice.  Giggle.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Momma's Carrot Cake Revisited... getting glazed over!

You may already know that carrot cake is my hubby's favorite and that I make mine from Miz Evelyn's recipe.  (If somehow you didn't know this, let me encourage you to check out the recipe for youself, remarkably easy and a carrot cake worth eating.)

I have always used Miz Evelyn's recipe for cream cheese pineapple frosting for this cake but hubby told me about one of his sister's rebellious ways and her talent with baking caught my attention.  She sometimes makes an orange glaze for her carrot cake.  He's been talking about it for about two months, almost like he knew I was going to be making a carrot cake.  Almost like it might be something I would do because it's his birthday!  Happy birthday, dear Hubby.  I am very grateful to have you in my life, that would be true even if I didn't get an awesome recipe for carrot cake from your mom.

This glaze is so easy, it seems silly to write a recipe, and yet, I felt it was important to make a note of it, if not for you sake, for mine.

Smart Sister's Inspired Orange Glaze

1 c. powdered sugar
1 orange

Put powdered sugar in a bowl.

Finely grate the rind off the orange, do not go into the white pith.  Your whole kitchen will smell lovely while you do this.  When finished you should have a pale orange, not a white one.

Into a separate bowl squeeze half of the orange, you can do both but I did not use the full amount of juice from the first half.

Mix grated rind with sugar.  Stir well.  Add 2-3 spoonfuls of juice and stir, from here you keep adding  small amounts and stirring well.  When it looks like you no longer have a larger amount of white stuff and instead have a remarkably small orange puddle you'll know you're getting there.  Check the fluidity, it's glaze-y enough for you?  Some people like it drippy, some just want it to be like frosting on the top.  Hubby liked it dripping down so that's what I chose to do.

This glaze will be used in the future, maybe on pound cake, cookies and scones seem like a strong possibility.

Baker's One Bowl Cream Cheese Brownies

I have had a pile of cream cheese.  I don't really know how.  I think I started buying it Valentine's Day and kept buying it with great prices into the spring.  What was left was going out of date next week so I've been making a lot of things with cream cheese to use it up!

Baker's Chocolate brownies are the best homemade brownies around, in my humble opinion.  Back when my daughter was a bit younger one of her babysitters (and a hero in my heart) used her evening in my kitchen to show my girl how it's done.  Ever since then, that is the recipe I use, thank you Nicole!  I've done a lot of add-ins, chocolate chips, nuts, M&Ms, salted caramel have all happened in my kitchen but this weekend I am making their cream cheese brownies to use up the last few boxes of cream cheese in my fridge.


Baker's Chocolate Cream Cheese Brownies

Brownie Batter:

4 oz Baker's Unsweetened Chocolate (one small box or 4 blocks of chocolate from a large box)
1.5 sticks of butter
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 c. flour

Cream Cheese Topping:

8 oz cream cheese
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1/4 c. flour

HEAT oven to 350°F.
LINE 13x9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. Grease foil.
MICROWAVE chocolate and butter in large microwaveable bowl on HIGH 2 min. or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Add 2 cups sugar; stir until well blended. Add 4 eggs; mix well. Stir in 1 cup flour until well blended; spread into prepared pan.
BEAT cream cheese and remaining sugar, egg and flour in same bowl with whisk until well blended. Spoon over brownie batter; swirl gently with knife.
BAKE 35 to 40 min. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs. (Do not overbake.) Cool completely. Use foil handles to lift brownies from pan before cutting to serve.

I confess, I use their directions directly from their website, but I listed the ingredients a little differently, splitting them for the two different elements, it's easier for me to follow that way and I hope it helps for you.
I bake my brownies in a sheet pan, rather than the 13x9 described here, and instead of foil lining I use Silpat but I *ABSOLUTELY DO* butter my pan heavily especially on the sides.  I promise you, your brownies will come out beautifully if you line and butter your pan and liner.  One the pan has cooled a bit you just lift out the whole brownie (For a moment you can call the whole pan's worth A brownie!) and set it on a rack or board to allow it to finish cooling if you can bear the waiting!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Truth About Buttermilk... oh, and my personal biscuit recipe

What a strange title for a baking blog entry.  Well, perhaps I should have written that it's MY truth.  Well, I found it out on my own, and then in sharing it with others found out that lots of bakers already practice this and wondered why more don't speak about it.  

Can you see the dates on these bottles?  I used the January 26 bottle just last week and opened the February 11 bottle this morning.  Yes, it is May 13 as I am publishing this post.  I promise you, buttermilk is not really tasting like buttermilk until it has gone past it's sell by date.  Isn't that crazy?  

My memere, who lived in the same town I did when I was growing up, was a great cook and baker, but I don't remember her ever using buttermilk.  Certainly none of the recipes I have from her used it.  On the other hand, my grandma who lived on the rural edge of a suburban town in New York, came from Georgia and she used buttermilk in her recipes.  I remember what it used to taste like and was very surprised when I was a young adult and couldn't find buttermilk that tasted like Grandma's.  Well, I think she might have been getting it from a local dairy that actually made butter and had buttermilk to sell.  That's not what we get to buy in the grocery stores these days even though I now live in Georgia.  What we get is cultured milk.  Oh, it's a little thicker than what sweet milk drinkers are used to but it does not smell or taste like buttermilk, not really.  Well, yes, it will, just not the day you buy it.  Seriously.  Go buy a bottle, put it in your fridge and wait a month.  Then buy another bottle and hold them side by each.  The bottle that has been sitting in your fridge will separate (assuming you have a transparent bottle to observe this change) and when you open it, it will smell like buttermilk should  smell, tastes like it should taste and I promise you, it gives GREAT flavor to your baked goods.  In all the years I've been aging my own buttermilk I have had exactly ONE bottle go bad before I used it in total.  Depending on what I'm doing, I've had buttermilk sit for 3-4 months.  How did I know it went bad?  Um, there was green stuff growing in it and it didn't smell like buttermilk.  Honestly, even an open bottle is good, so if you make my biscuits and have outdated buttermilk leftover, don't worry about it, put the cap on and put it back in the fridge.  On the other hand you might need to make another batch of biscuits tomorrow because these won't last!

Now let me confess, my biscuit recipe is essentially the recipe that is on the bag of White Lily Flour, but I had the recipe in my box, copied from a grandma who also used White Lily until she moved to New York and couldn't get it anymore.  It makes me wonder if White Lily was publishing it's recipe on flour sacks of the 1930's?  Somehow I don't think so.  On the other hand, I will say the grandma recipe was not written as recipes are written today with amounts of ingredients (carefully measured, LOL) and then instructions.  It was more of a technique note written for me.  I'm giving you what works today.  

Pixie's Biscuits (Who knew Pixie was in love with a White Lily?)

2 cups of White Lily Self-Rising Flour (or see the note below)
1/4 cup of Crisco (grandma used lard, bacon grease or butter, I use butter flavored Crisco)
2/3 to 3/4 cup of buttermilk

Heat your oven to 500 F
Measure the flour into a bowl, cut up your shortening (yes I buy the sticks) and toss it in the flour, then using your hands began working it in, you could use what is called a pastry knife but I promise, this goes easier with your hand and if you work quickly the shortening will not melt and if you're at all nervous about it when you're done, put it in the fridge for 15 minutes.  Now here comes the difficult part, add 2/3 cup of buttermilk and stir.  I like to use a spoon for this stirring, but grandma continued to use her hands.  If it seems stiff add more milk.  This will vary day to day based on things like humidity and the thickness of your buttermilk.  (The older it is, the thicker the buttermilk gets.)  You just want to be able to get this all together and then lightly dust your counter with flour, turn out the dough and pat it out.  Some recipes I read say you should go to 1/2" thick but I like thick biscuits. I pat mine out to 3/4"-1" unless I'm making mini-biscuits.  There are some truths to be considered here.  If you want to separate your biscuits and let them get crispy on the sides as well as the top and bottom you'd better use a circle cutter.  It could be a glass from your cabinet if you don't have a biscuit cutter.  On the other hand, if you want to lay them close together so they will rise higher you could do a square and cut once and be done.  This time I made very large circles, almost 3".  You gather up the scraps when you're done cutting, and push them together as gently as possible making them another batch to be cut through.  You'll find the more you handle your dough the difference in how the biscuit turns out.  I can tell biscuits from the first cut and those from the third cut after baking.   

Places these on a baking sheet, either separated or almost touching together depending on how you want them to rise.  Place in the oven for about 10 minutes, perhaps a little more if you're baking them together.  When they are done they should be lightly brown on the top.  Yes, really, that's all you have to see.  

NOTE:  If for some reason you don't have self-rising flour simply make your own.  Use the softest flour you can find but I promise you I have made biscuits with King Arthur flour and they get eaten up, too.  

Self-Rising Flour

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder

Whisk these together and you're ready to make biscuits! 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Orange Poppy Seed Poundcake

This recipe caught my attention and I jumped right into it.  I often find recipes online and think "I will make this someday.  I save it or Pinterest it for a day when I need inspiration.  This recipe came across my desk this week and I said "Oh, yes, I'm making this for Mother's Day"  Funny how something can grab you.  Now that I've typed it in I can tell you I'm glad to have it in my computer for future use.

Making it was easy, last night I quadrupled the recipe, I didn't have any trouble with it AND I wound up with five loaves, not four!  Bonus bread is always a good thing.  Ordinarily I would wrap up the extra loaf and freeze it.  Every once in a while I have a reason I don't want to or can't cook for my weekend commitment and I take out the "extras" in the freezer and make some mixed plates of goodies.  Not everything freezes well, but I have a feeling the olive oil in this recipe would rescue it.  On the other hand, I have a neighbor who was very sweet to me last week and I think I will wrap it up and bring it to her in gratitude.  Thanks, Hannah, I am blessed to have you next door!

I hope you all have a wonderful Mother's Day.

Orange Poppy Seed Poundcake
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup full-fat greek yogurt
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup poppy seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large orange, zested and juiced (see note in recipe about how to do these)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). 
  • Generously grease a large loaf pan.  

  • In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, and salt.

  • In another bowl measure the sugar and grate the orange zest right over the sugar.  (Yes, it does make a difference.)  When you are done rub the zest into the sugar.  This helps to make your whole kitchen smell good and it changes your sugar from white to a soft orange color. Juice the orange and strain it.  You will need half the juice that remains for this recipe.  See a note about what to do with the rest below. 

  • In a large bowl whisk together the yogurt, eggs and vanilla. Add 1/2 of the orange juice, and stir to combine. Add the sugar mixture and stir. 

  • Gently whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ones.  Start by adding half the flour mixture and whisking it in.  Add the second half and when it is almost all mixed in, use a rubber spatula and add the olive oil.  Mix it only until you are sure it is combined.  

  • Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and tap it on the counter to be sure any air bubbles come to the top.  

  • Bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the top is golden and you don't get crumbs on a toothpick.  I highly recommend you take the cake to a cooling rack and let is set for at least 15 minutes.  When you can handle the "ears" of the pan without a pot holder, run a knife around the edges of the pan.  To release this cake you may need to flip it over, the cake in your hand and use the knife to pry it from one of the short sides.  (I made five of these last night in very well buttered pans, so I am speaking from experience, every one of them came out whole but each of them needed a little encouragement just as described.)  Place the cake back on the rack and let it cool completely.  

  • NOTE:  What to do with the leftover orange juice?  Well, if you're a drinker you might just add some ice and a little vodka, especially if like me you don't need every baked good to be sweeter than it already is.  On the other hand, you could take some confectioner's sugar, add some freshly squeezed orange juice and use it to glaze the loaf.  Either way, enjoy!