Monday, March 28, 2011

Pie, oh my!

I never made it around to blogging over the weekend. Or making cupcakes. Or working in the yard. Or cleaning my bathroom. Yeah…I know. I did a few house chores, though, and I did make a pie for Saturday nights “community dinner.” And I played tennis and went to church. So, its not like the weekend was a total waste.

I think most of my readers now are fairly “new” to the blog. Meaning that you have probably only been reading for 6 months-2 years. This blog has been around since 2008 though. It was started by request of my mother because she thought it would be a good way to find everything that I cook in one place. I’m pretty sure my mother never reads or consults my blog for recipes though. Or the cookbook that I made her. But I use them both when I’m at her house!

Well, one day, shortly after watching the movie “Waitress” I was walking along the Trinity River in Fort Worth and it dawned on me…I want to own my own bakery or restaurant one day. I don’t know much about cooking, but I know I love to do it! I don’t have any formal training, and have a LOT to learn, but…still…it would be awesome!

As time has gone by, and as I have experimented more, I realized a full-service bakery is out of the question. I don’t have any skills when it comes to making or decorating cakes. I can bake a cake, sometimes, but that’s about it. However….I’m really good at pies, cookies, and other random desserts. And I’m good at cooking meals. So, maybe it will be a restaurant with pie shop in the front one day.

Oh pies…I love pies. I love making pies, which is probably one reason why I loved “Waitress” so much. Since I had a bad week last week, and since I want to expand my pie-making-abilities, I purchased a new pie cookbook. Its about Southern pie making. And so far…I’m loving it.

This weekend I made a pie. It was chocolate, gooey and delicious. And it was extremely easy! And…my friend Julie, who claims to hate pies, ate 2 pieces. I’m thinking this one is a winner. Try it out!

Step 1: Pour your melted butter over the chocolate chips.

Step 2: Beat out your frustrations by "chopping" the pecans.

Step 3: Pour the rest of the ingredients in the bowl.

Step 4: Pour in the crust and bake. It's that easy!

Tar Heel Custard Pie with Bourbon Whipped Cream
From Mrs. Rowe’s little book of Southern Pies
And the Pioneer Woman

PW’s Pie Crust
(To be for realz…I used a store-bought crust, but here’s the recipe I would have used if I made my own.)

1-½ cup Crisco (vegetable shortening)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 whole egg
5 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, with a pastry cutter, gradually work the Crisco into the flour for about 3 or 4 minutes until it resembles a coarse meal. In a small bowl, beat an egg with a fork and then pour it into the flour/shortening mixture. Add 5 tablespoons of cold water, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir together gently until all of the ingredients are incorporated.

Separate the dough into thirds. Form 3 evenly sized balls of dough and place each dough into a large Ziploc bag. Using a rolling pin, slightly flatten each ball of dough (about ½ inch thick) to make rolling easier later. Seal the bags and place them in the freezer until you need them. (If you will be using it immediately it’s still a good idea to put in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes to chill.)

When you are ready to use the dough to make a crust, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw for 15 minutes. On a floured surface roll the dough, starting at the center and working your way out. (Sprinkle some flour over top of the dough if it’s a bit too moist.) If the dough is sticking to the countertop use a metal spatula and carefully scrape it up and flip it over and continue rolling until it’s about ½ inch larger in diameter than your pie pan.

With a spatula, lift the dough carefully from the surface of the counter into the pie pan. Gently press the dough against the corner of the pan. Go around the pie pan pinching and tucking the dough to make a clean edge.

Chocolate Pie Filling

½ Pie Crust Recipe
1 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup chopped pecans
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup white granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch pie plate with the rolled-out crust.

Put the chocolate chips in a bowl, pour in the melted butter, and stir until the chocolate is mostly melted. (May need to pop in the microwave for about 10 seconds too.) Add the pecans, flour, sugars, eggs, vanilla and salt, and stir until thoroughly combined. Pour the filling in the crust.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the filling forms a smooth brown crust and begins to pull away from the pie crust. (Top will look like a brownie.) Custards continue to cook when taken out of the oven, so don’t overdo it. The filling will still be wet in the center, but will firm up as it cools.

Cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour before slicing. Serve at room temperature or slightly warm. Top with bourbon whipped cream (see below).

Bourbon Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon (or vanilla extract if you don’t want it boozy)

Beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until frothy and beginning to thicken. Slowly add the sugar in a thin stream. Add the bourbon (or vanilla). Continue whipping until the cream is at the desired consistency.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Missing in Action

I should probably update my blog this weekend. I've been slacking. Well, I've been working a lot, spring cleaning, playing tennis, and am committed to 2 bible studies per week. So I'm not being lazy...I'm just not blogging.

How 'bout this? How 'bout I make some cupcakes this weekend to test them for my SIL's baby shower and I blog about it? Sounds like a plan.

Here's the invite I designed. I plan on pairing it with green envelopes. Its A7 size.

Do you think it coordinates with the nursery? That was my goal.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

St. Patty's Day

For some reason, St. Patty's Day makes me want to drink either really strong, dark beer....or whiskey....or green beer. Why? Probably because there is so much advertising going on about beer that I'm being sucked in. LOL!

I'm playing tennis I won't be going down to the local boozer to get wrecked. (That's Irish talk for going to the neighborhood pub to get really drunk.) Plus, I have to work on its probably not a good idea to drink a lot. (Not that I do that anyway....because I'm a grown up. And its just not how I roll.) However....I can bake something!

Last year in honor of the holiday, I made the following treat that can either be eaten at breakfast, or even for dessert. I'm thinking if you took the bread and made a bread pudding out of it, it would probably be really delicious!

This comes from Rachael Ray. Try it out!

Cranberry Soda Bread with Lime Glaze

1 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1 cup dried cranberries
1 large egg
1 cup confectioners' sugar
Grated peel and juice of 1 lime

Preheat the oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 1/3 cups milk and the lemon juice; let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Rub in the butter until coarse crumbs form, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cranberries.

Beat the egg into the milk mixture; stir into the flour mixture until just combined. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until it just comes together; form into an 8-inch round and place on the prepared baking sheet. Using a knife, score a 1/2-inch-deep "X" in the round. Bake until dark golden and crusty, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the confectioners' sugar, lime peel, lime juice and the remaining 1 tablespoon milk. Drizzle the cooled soda bread with the lime glaze.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Peanut Butter + Chocolate = Happy Family & Friends

A little over a month ago I had a thought. I mean...I have thoughts a lot...but this thought was about cake. Cake that involved peanut butter and chocolate. These two things. like Romeo and Juliet, were made for each other.

The cake was first attempted for our Super Bowl party. I used a recipe for the icing out of Food Network magazine. It was good, but not quite the balance of the two flavors that I wanted. So I thought about how to improve the recipe, and waiting until this weekend (my sis-in-law's b-day) to make it again.

I finally decided on chocolate cake with a mixture of peanut butter and chocolate icing. It wasn't until I tasted the two types of icing that I decided how I would divide it. In the end, the cake was fantastic! And I'm finally ready to share with the blogosphere!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
Adapted from several sources

Cake Ingredients: (From my Hershey's cookbook. Or you can just use a box mix!)
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions: Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans.

Mix sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl or mixer. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Divide batter into prepared pans evenly.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

Place bottom layer on a cake plate. Cover top with peanut butter icing (recipe follows). Place second layer on top and cover with peanut butter icing. Finally place third layer on top of second and spread a very think layer of peanut butter icing on top.

Cover entire cake with chocolate icing (recipe as follows). If desired, pipe extra peanut butter icing on cake.

Serve with vanilla ice cream!

Peanut Butter Icing

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter (I used reduced fat.)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (Or salted butter and leave out kosher salt)
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream

Directions: Mix confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth. Adjust consistency to icing by adding more confectioners' sugar or more heavy cream.

Chocolate Icing (As seen before)

2 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons evaporated milk

Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa in a medium bowl. With a stand or hand mixer, cream butter until smooth. Gradually add in the sugar mixture, alternating with a tablespoon of evaporated milk at a time. Once all ingredients are combined, beat until light and fluffy.

Take a spatula, and test the stiffness of the icing by seeing if a peak forms when you flop it over. (This is very technical.) If too thick, add a tiny bit of more milk. If not thick enough, add more powdered sugar. Most likely it will not be thick enough!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Don't quit your day job

As a marketing and communication professional, I found the following video interesting. Business cards are an important way to brand your organization, while communicating important contact information. They also serve as a method to win free food when you drop it in a local "fish bowl" at a restaurant. I mean...they have lots of different uses. But all cards are often the impression you leave behind after meeting a new business contact.

What is your card like? Mine has three spot colors (gray, maroon and gold), and is on 130 lb. double thick cover. Its a sturdy card, and stands up really well when handing them out or carrying them in your purse.

If you are interested in design, branding, PR or advertising, the following video might be worth the watch. I thought it was!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy Mardi Gras!

Oh Mardi Gras! You are such an interesting holiday! And really, you aren't even a holiday. I mean, you are even less of a holiday that Valentine's, but way more fun that Columbus Day, Presidents Day or Flag Day!

Mardi Gras and I reunited for the first time in several years this weekend. In need of a break, two of my friends and I skipped town Friday morning for a three day retreat. This girls only weekend involved three key factors: shopping, food, and good company. That's all we really needed for a little R&R. However, it so happened that our weekend get-a-way also coincided with Mardi Gras celebrations on the Mississippi Coast.

It was chilly and rainy, so the celebrations were limited, but Amy, Karis and I did make it to one parade. We caught our beads and revealed in a very family friendly crowd. (Not sure we could handle Mardi Gras New Orleans style.) We also ate King Cake (K found the baby), and had some seafood. It was a pretty great celebratory attempt, if you ask me.

Friday night we ate at Half Shell in Gulfport on my parents recommendation. We arrived around 7:00 p.m., and were informed of an hour and a half wait. We figured by the time we tried anywhere else we wouldn't be much better off, so decided to stick it out. They then gave us the option to leave a phone number so we could leave and come back for a table when they had one. We took them up on it, and headed to the grocery store for some items, then headed back to the condo to relax. We finally decided to head back to the restaurant around 8:30, and literally walked up to the hostess as she was calling my cell phone.

After being seated, we quickly ordered spinach and artichoke dip for an appetizer. It was 8:45, and we were STARVING. They served it with pita bread. One surprise in the dip that made it their own was the addition of red onion. You wouldn't think a little onion would make a big difference, but it sure did! It made a very notable difference, and I will be attempting to make it in the near future. (After I figure it out, I will share.)

Our appetizers were fantastic, and our food was good as well. I would definitely recommend Half Shell to anyone heading to the coast, and hope to eat there again when I return. The food was wonderful, the service and staff were really outstanding, and it was most definitely worth the wait!

Saturday night we cooked up a feast of redfish, steak, green beans, cabbage salad and grilled vegetables. It was divine! I will be sure to post the recipes later, so stay tuned.

All in all, our little Mardi Gras trip was a success. We had a lot of fun, but more importantly, had a much needed weekend away from ole S-town. The three days allowed us to have fun and forget work, stress, and everything that has been going on. And I look forward to many more fun times to come!

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Red, red wiiiinnnee

Ahhhh....its Thursday. Thursday is one of my favorite days. Why? Because its almost Friday, which means its almost the weekend. Also because Bones and Grey's Anatomy comes on Thursday night. Its such a glorious day!

My ritual on Thursday is to come home from work, cook a nice dinner, pour a glass of wine, and chill. As much as possible, I try to reserve this night for my sanity's sake. Every other night of the week can be spent out an about or working late, but come 7:30-8:00ish on Thursday, I need to be at home.

When it comes to wine, I'm pretty simple. I like it red. I like it bold. And I particularly like it if its from Chile.

I don't know what it is about Chilean wine, but from the first sip, I was sold. So the other night when I was in search of a new red, I ran across Root: 1 in the South American section. I was drawn to it because of the bottle. No label. Design is etched into the glass, and then decided to try when I found out its country of origin. I was pleasently surprised by its deliciousness. First I tried the cabernet sauvignon, and then the carmenere. Both are delicous and smooth.

Root: 1 is realatively inexpensive. Both bottles I bought ran between $12-$15. I assume its easy to find because we have it in my small town. Its a great bottle to take to a dinner party or give at a gift because its not too strong or too dry. It would work well for a spring cookout.

So...if you are comin to my house for dinner...You can pick this up at Corky's.

Morning Giggles

I am in an especially good mood this morning...which rarely ever happens. I slept well last night and woke up without the assistance of my 4 alarms. (Yes, I have 4 alarms that go off each morning. I'm not a morning person.) I even made it to work at 8:00! *gasp*

If you need anything from me, work people (who probably don't read my blog)...then ask me for it TODAY!

Okay, got to work and saw this on facebook. This little chica is my new favorite person! She is so funny! the first, and then watch the second. Hopefully it will bring a smile to your face!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Birthdays and cupcakes

On Saturday, my family celebrated my sweet nephew’s 4th birthday. I can’t believe how fast he is growing up!!! In celebration of his birth, we had a friend party on “The Compound” complete with a bounce house and slide. Yes, I did jump before AND after the party. It was pretty awesome!

The sweets for the party were a community effort. My sister made the cupcakes, my mom made the icing, I piped the icing, and Will put sprinkles on the cupcakes. We like to work together as a team! : ) They turned out to be quite delicious, so I thought I would share.

I was so stressed out last week, and going home to see my family just made everything better. I was only home for one night, but I got to do a little cooking at my mom’s, play outside on the farm in the beautiful sunshine, go to dinner with my brother and sister-in-law, and have lunch with both siblings and their families. It was such a wonderful two days!

I am pretty blessed to have such a great family. My grandparents were married for 62 years, and my parents have been married for nearly 37. I have a great sister and brother, who at times I don’t get along with…but hey, we are siblings after all! I have a brother-in-law who is the smartest person I know, and a sister-in-law who has become one of my best friends. I also have the cutest niece and nephew who I adore, and another one who is on the way. (We find out if it’s a boy or girl today!!!!) You folks should be jealous…because I think my family is pretty darn great!

Anyway…happy cooking! For yellow cupcakes with chocolate icing, this simple recipe is super yummy!

Yellow Cupcakes

1 box of yellow cake mix
4 eggs
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
Amount of oil on box

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. Mix together cake mix, eggs, buttermilk and oil. Beat with an electric mixer until combined.

To fill your cupcake liners either:
1. Spoon batter into a zip-top bag. Snip a ¼ inch corner from the bag and fill paper liners 2/3 full.
2. Use an ice cream scoop. One scoop = one cupcake.

Bake about 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Place on wire rack to cool. Yields approximately 24 cupcakes.

Chocolate Icing

3 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons evaporated milk

Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa in a medium bowl. With a stand or hand mixer, cream butter until smooth. Gradually add in the sugar mixture, alternating with a tablespoon of evaporated milk at a time. Once all ingredients are combined, beat until light and fluffy.

Take a spatula, and test the stiffness of the icing by seeing if a peak forms when you flop it over. (This is very technical.) If too thick, add a tiny bit of more milk. If not thick enough, add more powdered sugar. Most likely it will not be thick enough!

Spoon icing in a piping bag and pipe on top of cupcakes.

To Decorate
For these cupcakes, I used a 1M star tip. I started from the outside of the cupcake, and circled in squeezing the bag lightly, but continuous. It took two full recipes of the icing to ice all 24 cupcakes.

We also added sprinkles to the top of the cupcakes for decoration. We filled a toothpick dispenser with the sprinkles, and let Will shake them over the cupcakes.