Category Archives: Food

Recipe Wednesday: Ginger Asparagus

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How’s your summer going? Vacationing? Relaxing?  Kids bored yet?  Mine haven’t said that…yet. Anyway, we’re really busy and I have been looking for some quick dinner ideas that the family will like, but won’t keep me in the kitchen too long. This recipe for Ginger Asparagus is one of those recipes.  I usually pair this dish with salmon or steak and I’m in and out of the kitchen in no time.

market Asparagus recipe

 

Ginger Asparagus

3/4 c. rice vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

2 tablespoons sugar

1 pound fresh asparagus

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons dark sesame oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine vinegar and ginger in a small saucepan; bring to a boil.  Boil 7 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half.  Remove from heat, and stir in sugar. Set aside.

Cut off tough ends of the asparagus.  Place asparagus in a large skillet; add cold water to cover.  Bring to boil; remove from heat. Plunge asparagus onto cold water to stop the cooking process; drain. Arrange asparagus on a serving platter.

Combine vegetable oil and remaining 4 ingredients, stirring well; drizzle over asparagus; cover and chill.  Makes 4 servings.

 

Easy peasy! Okay, back to your regularly scheduled summer activities. 🙂

 

Recipe Wednesday: Chocolate Caramel Pecan Bars

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What are you doing this afternoon?  Nothing, you say? Entertaining your children? Here’s something that you can do.  You can surprise your family by making these Chocolate Caramel Pecan Bars. They are really easy and quick (because I’m all about easy and quick) to make. Afterward, your kids will rejoice and you will be a super hero.  I promise.

 

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Bars

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Bars

 

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Bars

16 oz. package yellow cake mix                                                                          1 t. vanilla extract

1/3 c. butter, softened                                                                                        1 c. chopped pecans

2 eggs, divided                                                                                                   8 oz. package chocolate covered toffee baking bits (can use plain toffee also)

14 – oz. can sweetened condensed milk

 

Combine cake mix, butter and one (1) egg in a bowl; mix until crumbly.  Pat into a greased 13×9 baking pan.  Combine condensed milk, remaining egg, and vanilla in a separate bowl; stir until well blended. Stir in pecans and toffee baking bits.  Spread evenly over cake mix mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.  Cool completely before cutting into bars.  Makes one dozen.

Happy Wednesday! 🙂

Recipe Wednesday: Fresh Strawberry Cake

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When I was a kid, the only strawberry flavored food that I would willingly eat was Strawberry Pop-tarts.  I can’t believe that I admitted that out loud.  Sad, but true. Sorry Pop-tart makers.  You will be happy to know that I now have a mature palate and Pop-tarts are no longer on the menu in my house. However, if you are looking for a good strawberry cake/cupcake recipe I have one for you. This cake is my oldest daughter’s favorite and she requests it for all of her special occasions – birthdays, graduations, new jobs…Tuesdays.

By the way, did I tell you that our oldest girl has her first post college job as an accountant?  WHOOT!  Big Poppa and I are so happy and excited for her.  New beginnings are always fun and we love to see her spreading her wings.  Not to mention that we are even happier to be one step closer to getting one of our crew off of the  payroll!!!  At least I’m honest. I digress.

I’ve played with this recipe for a while and I’d say (and my daughter would agree) that it’s pretty perfect.  *Please note that this recipe calls for a 10 oz. package of frozen strawberries.  I use 10 oz. of fresh pureed strawberries and I believe that this makes all of the difference in the world.  This cake tastes authentically strawberry and not artificially strawberry.

Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes/Cake

Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes/Cake

 

Fresh Strawberry Cake

1 (18.25 oz.) white cake mix (NOT VANILLA)

1 (3 oz.) box strawberry flavored instant gelatin

1 (10 oz.) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed (*see note above)

4 large eggs

1/2 c. vegetable oil

1/4 c. water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease 2 round 9-inch cake pans (if making cupcakes, fill each cupcake tin 1/2 full).  In a large bowl combine cake mix and gelatin. Add pureed strawberries, eggs, oil and water; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.  Pour into prepared pans and bake for 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean.  Let cool in pans for 10 minutes.  Remove from pans , and cool completely on wire racks.

 

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

1/4 c. butter, softened

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened

1 (10 oz.) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed (*see note above)

1/2 tsp. strawberry extract (*I don’t use this.  Use it to suit your taste.)

7 c. confectioners’ sugar

In a large bowl,  beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Beat in 1/4 c. strawberry puree, reserving remaining for another use.  Beat in extract.  Gradually add confectioners sugar, beating until smooth.  For pinker frosting, add 2 to 3 drops of red food coloring to frosting.

 

🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Recipe Wednesday: Batty for Blueberries

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Batty for Blueberries

Lately, Thing 1 and I have been on a blueberry craze.  Blueberries and blackberries have become a staple in our refrigerator and I can’t keep them longer than a couple of days.  Is there anything better than blueberry and lemon in…well, anything?  No. The answer is no. Not to mention that they are really, really good for you.

“Blueberries, strawberries and blackberries are true superfoods. Naturally sweet and juicy, berries are low in sugar and high in nutrients – they are among the best foods you can eat.”

Joel Fuhrman

Therefore, in honor of our new-found food obsession, here is a recipe that celebrates the blueberry – with a touch of lemon, of course.

 

LEMON BLUEBERRY CHEESECAKE BARS

Ingredients

For the base:
Butter, for greasing
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
9 graham crackers
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted


For the filling:
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 eggs
2 lemons, zested and juiced
About 1/2 cup sugar, eyeball it
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions
For the filling:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

For the base:
Grease the bottom of a 9 by 9-inch baking pan with butter. Then place parchment paper over the top, pressing down at the corners. In a food processor, process the sugar, cinnamon and graham crackers until you have the texture of bread crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse a couple of times to fully incorporate. Pour into the lined baking pan and gently pat down with the base of a glass. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes until golden. When done set aside to cool.

For the filling:
Add cream cheese, eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar to the food processor and mix until well combined. It should have a smooth consistency. Pour onto the cooled base and then cover with blueberries. They will sink slightly but should still be half exposed — as the cake bakes they will sink a little more and break down.

Bake in the oven for 35 minutes or until the center only slightly jiggles. Remove from the oven and cool completely before refrigerating for at least 3 hours. Once set, remove from pan using the parchment lining and slice into 10 rectangular bars. Dust with powdered sugar.


Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence, 2007

Recipe Wednesday: Crustless Brownie Pie

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It is taking me a while to get back to normal after Easter Sunday.  We had guests for Easter dinner and I have to admit that this was probably the most unorganized that I’ve ever been approaching a holiday.  I just couldn’t get my mojo working. Anyway, those who know me well know that I’m all about desserts; and those who come to eat at my house expect great desserts. So, since it’s “Recipe Wednesday” (I just made that up since I usually post a recipe on Wednesdays. I think I’ll keep it!) I thought I’d share a dessert recipe from Sunday.  It’s chocolate, so I know that you’re all in.

My intentions were to make a chocolate tart.  I had all of my ingredients ready, when I discovered that somewhere between Illinois and Texas, I have lost my spring-form tart pan.  I had already made a Fresh Strawberry Cake, but one of my sons and one of my daughters don’t do strawberries.  Also, I think my family would go into shock if there was only one dessert on a holiday.  Frustrated and grumpy, I went to bed, but I had a recipe in the back of my mind. I couldn’t remember all of the details and I didn’t know where to find it.  Then, at 5:00 the next morning, THIS came to me:

 

Crustless Brownie Pie

Crustless Brownie Pie

 

Easier than a tart and oh, so good.  I paired this with my chocolate glaze (recipe below) and store-bought vanilla ice cream.  Perfect!

Crustless Brownie Pie 

1 1/2 c sugar

1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1/3 c. cocoa

1/2 c. butter, softened

3 extra-large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

1 c. chopped pecans or walnuts (I use pecans.)

 

1. Combine first 7 ingredients; beat 4 minutes at medium speed with an electric mixer. Stir in pecans. Spread batter evenly in a buttered 9 – inch pie plate.

2. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.  Pie will puff and then fall slightly.

 

Chocolate Glaze

Melt 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips with 2 tablespoons heavy cream and drizzle on pie.

My family and guests devoured it and all was again right with the world. 🙂

Midnight Mischief

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A few nights ago I was up late futzing around my kitchen – couldn’t sleep. A lot like tonight.  I tried watching television and reading a book, but then this happened:

Candy Bar Brownies

Candy Bar Brownies

 

Candy Bar Brownies

3/4 c. butter (unsalted)

2 c. sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

4 large eggs

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/3 c. cocoa (I use Dutch processed cocoa)

4 regular sized chocolate/caramel/nougat candy bars (you really can use any candy bar that you want)*

3 regular sized solid chocolate candy bars (I use dark chocolate)*

*Keep candy bars refrigerated until ready to chop and use.   

1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sugar and vanilla; add eggs and beat well.

2. Combine flour and next three (3) ingredients; stir into sugar mixture.  Fold in chopped nougat bars.  Spoon into a greased and floured 13 x 9 inch pan; sprinkle with chopped chocolate bars.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.  Cool completely and cut into bars.  Yields about 2 1/2 dozen brownies.

To. Die. For.

What? Doesn’t everyone bake when they can’t sleep?

What’s in Your Pantry?

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I cleaned out my pantry today.  I cleaned the refrigerator, too, but I don’t want to talk about that because for some reason cleaning the refrigerator is work and traumatic. However, cleaning the pantry is refreshing.  You feel organized and energized!  It also gives me a chance to see what we’re low on (Ramen.  My son loves Ramen therefore, we are always running low.) and what we are completely out of.  Granola.  We are out of granola and I really didn’t need to check the pantry because Thing 1 had already let me know of my failure to maintain the granola.  And, in case you didn’t know, it is considered a fail not to keep a well stocked pantry.  I know this because my mother told me so.  She had a HUGE pantry in our basement while I was growing up and  there were always extras on those shelves. With the aid of that massive deep freezer that she kept in the garage,  a meal was always at your fingertips, even if it was Hamburger Helper. I’m not quite that good.  I mean, I keep the basics like peanut butter, honey, oatmeal, some canned soups (for emergencies) and our favorite cereals, among other things.  But then there are some items that I consider necessities that I’m sure my mother would look at me with a raised eyebrow.  For instance…

Pantry Coffee shelf

Here’s my coffee shelf and I go out of my way to keep it stocked.  My mother used to keep one big can of Folgers in the kitchen.  Well, I’m not a strictly Folgers kinda of girl.  Some days I like a full-bodied Sumatran and other days it might be Duncan or an Italian roast. This girl needs variety and let’s face it – I would surely die without my coffee.

I do like to keep a variety of pasta because everyone like pasta.

Pretty Pasta

However, I like my pasta pretty.  Why have plain old spaghetti when you can have tri-colored hearts and flowers?  I like to make a pasta salad with olive oil, garlic and seasonings or pair it with pasta sauces that I find in specialty food stores, salad and bread.  It’s quick and makes everyone happy.

However, I have to admit that because I love to bake, the majority of my pantry is taken up with baking ingredients.  It is inconceivable to me that at any moment, day or night, I wouldn’t have the ingredients to make a really good chocolate chip cookie or a simple 1-2-3-4 cake…no box mix necessary.  Therefore, there are always at least 2 bags of milk chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, dark chocolate chips and white chocolate chips in my pantry.  Same for baking bars (milk, semi-sweet, unsweetened and white chocolate).  I keep dutch processed cocoa, a really good vanilla (never imitation) and of course extra flour (regular and cake), sugar (white, dark brown, light brown and powdered), baking soda and baking powder.  There are a few other additional fun things, but basically, if you have these ingredients you’re ready.

Baking Pantry collage

I have an obscene amount of sprinkles, sanding sugars and other decorations.  It’s fun to do and the girls love it!  I guess that I can’t really expect all of you to share my passion for baking, but I am going to leave you with a very simple recipe to keep in your back pocket for that moment when your spouse invites a coworker over unexpectedly. Or, when you suddenly remember that you were supposed to bring a dessert to the church pot luck tomorrow. Or when you can’t sleep and you want something sweet so you need to make a cake, then singlehandedly demolish it before dawn.  I’ve never done that…just using my imagination.

Basic 1-2-3-4 Cake 

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3/4 cup of sour cream
3 cups sifted self-rising flour
1 1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add sour cream and beat well.  Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4 inches above counter, then dropping it flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. Cool in pans 5 to 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto cooling racks. Cool completely and spread cake layers with frosting of your choice.

It All Started With a Science Experiment

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I don’t know about you, but this is what goes on in my house at 1:00 in the morning.

Cream Cheese Banana Bread

Cream Cheese Banana Bread

I couldn’t sleep. It’s a long story.  Anyway, one day last week Thing 2 comes home with a brown paper bag with her name on it that contains a plastic baggie with a flour mixture and 2 bananas.  She rips the bag open, pulls out its contents and says, “Guess what?  We made banana bread at school!  Well, we didn’t, like, make it really. We mixed the flour and stuff.  You have to add some eggs and bake it!”  I correctly assumed that this was part of a science unit and asked if there were instructions. “No,” she said.  “You just put that flour mixture with some eggs and milk and the bananas and mix it up.  Then bake it.” I later found out from another mom that there were, in fact, instructions however, Thing 2 thought they were unnecessary. Anyway, I’m sure that you can appreciate the fact that I was a bit skeptical.  So, I decided to discard of the flour mixture (please don’t tell her) and do my own thing and since I was still wide awake at midnight with nothing to do, I figured that it was a good time to bake. The next morning, or shall I say, later that morning when the girls woke up, the house still smelled like fresh-baked banana bread. They were pleased.

This is the recipe that I use to make banana bread.  It was originally a Southern Living recipe however, I have tweaked it over the years to make it my own.  It’s very moist and flavorful and I know you’re going to freak out a bit when you see the cinnamon in it, but it works.  Somehow, that small amount boosts the banana flavor and you really don’t taste the cinnamon.

Cream Cheese Banana Nut Bread

3/4 cup butter, softened

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 large bananas, mashed

1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Add Vegetable oil.  Combine flour and next 4 ingredients; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low-speed just until blended. Stir in bananas, pecans, and vanilla. Spoon batter into 2 greased and floured 8- x 4-inch loaf pans.

Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean and sides pull away from pan, shielding with aluminum foil last 15 minutes to prevent browning, if necessary. Cool bread in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool 30 minutes on wire racks before slicing.

My advice is to not actually eat it in the wee hours of the morning.  Do something else like read, or peruse the internet or sort Barbie clothes.  Whatever works.

Snow Day – Texas Style

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Today we had our second snow day for the year here in south Texas.  I think that I should remind y’all that I’m from Illinois – northern Illinois – and snow days here are quite different from there.  First of all, and I think most noticeably is the absence of actual snow here in Texas compared to the foot of snow required to cancel school in Illinois.  Okay, we can stop right there because that’s really what caught my attention.  To be fair, it did sort of snow this afternoon (it was probably more like sleet) and all 30 seconds of it brought pure joy to my girls.  At least it was cold enough (not below zero, but at or below freezing) for us to hunker down and stay in the house, except for when Thing 1 and Thing 2 ran out into the yard to see if they could feel the snow falling from the sky.  They could not feel it, prompting Thing 2 to declare “This is NOT Chicago snow!”  No,  no it’s not and trust me, they do not want Chicago snow in Texas.  However, it was a good day, none the less and we spent it all together which, given everyone’s hectic schedules, has become a rarity.

We made breakfast together.

Thing @ setting the breakfast table

Thing 2 setting the breakfast table

We did some laundry.

Thing 2 helping with laundry

Thing 2 helping with laundry.

We played Uno.

Thing 2 winning at Uno.

Thing 2 winning at Uno.

Come to think of it, Thing 2 had a really good day and Thing 1 dodged all of the work!

So, I decided that it would be a good day to reward my family with a sweet treat after dinner and, of course, no one objected.   This simple and delicious recipe takes only minutes to make and is low in calories (196) and fat (4 grams). Surprised?  I know, me too!  Perfect for a spur of the moment week night dessert.

Chocolate Parfait

Chocolate Parfait

Chocolate Parfait

Ingredients

  • 1 (1.4-oz.) package fat-free, sugar-free chocolate instant pudding mix
  • 2 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1 (8-oz.) container fat-free frozen whipped topping, thawed and divided
  • 3/4 cup chocolate graham cracker crumbs (4 cracker sheets)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated chocolate

Preparation

  1. 1. Whisk together first 3 ingredients in a bowl until blended and smooth. Fold in 1 1/2 cups whipped topping.
  2. 2. Spoon 1 Tbsp. crumbs into each of 6 (4-oz.) glasses, and top with 1/3 cup pudding mixture. Repeat layers with remaining crumbs and pudding mixture. Top each parfait evenly with remaining whipped topping and grated chocolate. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Margaret Groves, Northport, Alabama,
JULY 2006

They liked it!

They liked it!

I Prefer Mine Warm

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I’m talking about Banana Pudding.  Apparently this is sacrilege to some people and I stumbled upon this “hot or cold” controversy.  I was discussing with my friend how I had to wait until my Banana Pudding came out of the oven before I went to pick up my girls.  She was like “Wait!  What?!  What’s it doing in the oven?”  Well, of course it goes in the oven!  REAL banana pudding goes in the oven!  At least I thought it did, right?  We compared recipes: eggs (check), vanilla wafers (check), sugar (check), bananas (check), etc. and it turns out that they are somewhat the same except mine includes meringue and is baked in the oven while the cold version includes whipped cream and is not baked in the oven, but placed in the refrigerator instead.  Hence, it’s cold.  My friend was a bit concerned that I have done something completely out of line where Banana Pudding is concerned, but I assured her that it is completely fine.  In fact, it is delicious.  If it makes you feel better, you can split the difference and eat it at room temperature.

Banana Pudding

Banana Pudding

Banana Pudding

3 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/3 c. sugar

Dash of salt

3 large eggs, separated

3 c. milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 (12 oz. ) package of vanilla wafers

6 medium bananas

1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine first three ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Beat egg yolks; combine egg yolks and milk, stirring well.  Stir into dry ingredients; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and thickened.  Remove from heat; stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Layer one-third of wafers in a 3-quart baking dish.  Slice 2 bananas and layer over wafers.  Pour one-third of custard over bananas.  Repeat layers twice.

Beat egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy.  Gradually add 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form.  Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, and beat until blended.  Spread meringue over custard, sealing to the edge of dish.  Bake at 325 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.


*The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook, 1999