Mardi Gras Recipe Round Up!

  Our office tries to do fun potluck meals on occasion. One idea that we came up with last year was to try a combined Fat Tuesday/Valentine potluck. We originally called it Beads and Beaux but decided to change it to Beads and Bows after a couple confused looks. We’d been collecting recipes on Pinterest for a year so we were definitely prepared. I’ve decided to do a round up of the recipe links rather than a recipe post. For one thing, I want to be able to capture several of the recipes at one time, and second, my dish (Cajun Shrimp Dip) wasn’t very photogenic.

In choosing recipes, we joked that to make something Cajun just add Cajun seasoning and to make something Valentine themed, add red food color or cut it in a heart shape.

Here’s what we came up with:

I made Cajun Shrimp Dip. To me, it was just ok. The recipe calls for a pound of salad shrimp and the biggest bag I could find was 11 ounces. And honestly, I felt that was too much shrimp. If I were to make this again, I’d probably use an even smaller bag and cut the shrimp flavor down a bit. Or maybe use shredded or canned chicken.

Candace made Red Beans and Rice Salad. She would be the first to tell you that she overcooked her rice. Slow cookers can be fickle. Nonetheless, I thought this was a really tasty dish. I had an extra container on hand so I boxed up a portion for the next day’s lunch and I think it was even better because everything a chance to blend together.

Shelia brought in Valentine Blondies. She cut hers in a heart shape. They were very yummy and my 2 year old very much enjoyed the one I brought home to him. He loves chocolate chip cookies and these were like a thick cookie. Yum!

Rita made Maque Choux which was a new experience for all of us.  She made two versions: one with sausage and one without for the vegetarians. I liked it a lot and I think it would be really good in summer when there’s fresh corn available.

And last but not least, Sherry provided Southern Pecan Praline Cake. As one taster said, “Lord have mercy!”. I think that sums it up pretty well.

It was a good meal and gave us a chance to step out of our culinary comfort zones and try some new recipes.

 

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“I Want To Marry You” Cookies

The holidays are over and many of us are trying to move past all of the cookies, cakes,  and candy we ate. But I can’t move forward without paying my respects to a new cookie recipe that I found. And loved.

Our office hosts a cookie exchange each year. In the weeks (ok, months. Ok, we’re already planning this year’s) leading up to it, we talk a lot about cookies. We look for cookies online. We remember fondly cookies of past Christmas seasons.

I had a short list of cookies/treats that I was considering for this year’s exchange. Then I scrapped the whole list when I found this recipe on The Cooking Channel’s website. There were several reasons that it appealed to me. 1) It looked easy. 2) It looked tasty and 3) I had almost everything on hand to make it.

I really wanted to change the name though. I even posed the question to my Fb friends. Suggestions included “Double Chocolate Oatmeal Delights”, “Catch ‘Em and Keep ‘Em Cookies” “I’m Already Taken Cookies”, and “Happily Ever  After Cookies”. Since I’m already married, I considered “So Good He Put a Ring On It Cookies”. I also kept thinking of that old episode of Designing Women where the girls sing “Wedding Bell Blues” so I kind of wanted to call these “Come On and Marry Me Bill Cookies”. But my husband isn’t Bill and we do work in the same building, so I didn’t want to start any rumors.

So, I didn’t rename the cookies. Pardon me for just putting you through a pointless story.

The cookies are a cross between a chocolate chip cookie and an oatmeal cookie. I really enjoyed them, and they were all claimed at the cookie exchange. It’s definitely a keeper recipe.

  

 I Want to Marry You Cookies

1 cup butter

1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 cup uncooked rolled oats

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup white chocolate chips

1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter completely over medium heat. Remove from the heat.

Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and stir until sugars are incorporated and smooth. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.

Remove from the refrigerator and stir in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla.

Add the flour, oats, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cinnamon and mix together.

Stir in both kinds of chips. 

Roll by hand into 24 medium-size balls or use a scoop, and chill for 30 minutes. You can place your dough balls on a cookie sheet to do this, or you can do what I did,  which was to layer them in a bowl with wax paper between each layer. 

Remove the cookies from the refrigerator and bake for 12 to 14 minutes.

The Perfect Cupcake, Birthdays, and the Struggles of Modern Motherhood

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My son will turn two in less than three months and I have no clue what his party theme will be for his 2nd birthday party. In case you haven’t reproduced in the social media age, let me break that down for you.

I’m woefully behind in planning.

While my peers and I have may have turned out just fine with a Totino’s Pizza and a cake from the Piggly Wiggly, for the modern birthday child this will not do. Today’s parent must procure a custom made designer cake with 3 inches of fondant and a backyard petting zoo complete with a panda. Think I’m exaggerating? Search “First birthday party ideas” on Pinterest. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Are you back? Are your eyes spinning? SEE, I TOLD YOU.

For my son’s first birthday, I did a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme. I bought a few things online, picked up a few things at Dollar Tree and all in all, I think it turned out well although I certainly didn’t have a Pinterest worthy party. One thing that did rock though was the cupcakes.

I decided to buy a cake from-gasp– Meijer for him. I just couldn’t justify spending a small fortune for a cake that he wouldn’t remember, I’d be too tired too enjoy, and my husband probably wouldn’t like. To supplement the cake, I made these cupcakes.

And while I may have been lackluster in my other party efforts, I was a rock star with these cupcakes. The taste of them, that is. My icing skills are sorely lacking.

I hadn’t blogged the recipe yet and considered not blogging it since I didn’t change anything and the recipe is already out on the interwebs. But I’ve lost some really good recipes before when the original site disappeared and I don’t want to lose this one.

The cupcakes were a huge hit and I had requests for the recipe. I also made my son a small cake using some extra batter and a ramekin as my cake pan. It wasn’t fancy but it was cute. And he loved it. And didn’t realize it wasn’t a fancy smash cake. Because, he’s you know, a baby.

So, while I may be clueless about this year’s party theme, one thing is for sure: these cupcakes will be on the menu.

Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes

Orginal recipe here.

Ingredients:

1 16.25 oz box white cake mix

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 tsp salt

1 1/3 cup water

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup sour cream

4 egg whites

For the Buttercream Frosting:

6 cups powdered sugar

2 cups butter, room temperature

2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line muffin tins with your choice of cupcake liners. Set aside.

In the bowl of an upright mixer, whisk together cake mix, flour, sugar and salt. Attach the paddle attachment, add the rest of the ingredients and beat together until well mixed.

Fill each muffin tin about 3/4 full of batter.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool.

While cupcakes cool, make the frosting. Mix the butter and powdered sugar together slowly and carefully so that the sugar doesn’t go flying everywhere. Add in the vanilla extract. Mix slowly until frosting consistency.

Top your cooled cupcakes-make sure they are completely cooled-with frosting.

Brownie Mix Cookie Bars

This is so simple that I can’t even call it recipe. It’s more of a baking tip, or a timesaver.

A few years ago, I was trying to find one more goodie to finish off a cookie tray for my husband’s office. I spotted a box of brownies in my cupboard and found a suggestion on the box to make brownie cookies by adding 1/2 cup flour to the brownie mix then baking like a cookie. It sounded good to me so I tossed in some leftover white chocolate chips and voila! White Chocolate chip Chocolate Cookies. And wouldn’t you know, those cookies were the first thing to disappear from the tray?

Recently, I found myself looking for a quick dessert to take to work so I decided that brownie cookies were the way to go. But with Baby Boy running all over the kitchen in his walker and two cats running from him, there were too many cooks in the kitchen. So, I just prepared the brownie mix with the 1/2 cup flour, added in some white chocolate chips then poured the batter into a 13 x 9 pan and made cookie bars!

They turned out to be a cross between a brownie and a cookie. A delicous cross that a co-worker described as the best brownie ever. Can’t beat that.

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Fresh Apple Pie

Fall is here and I know of no better way to celebrate than with a fresh apple pie! I picked up some Red Delicious apples at the farmers market last week, and I couldn’t wait to bake pie. This is my mom’s recipe and she makes her crust from scratch. I take an easier way out and use ready-made refrigerated pie crust.

Fresh Apple Pie

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You need:

Refrigerated pie crust (not the frozen kind in the foil pan but the refrigerated kind near the cookie dough; make sure it says there are 2 crusts in the box)
6 cups of peeled, sliced apples (for me this was 4 large apples)
3/4 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400.
Prep pie crust according to package directions. Most will direct you to let the pie crust set out at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.

Mix apples with sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon.

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Give it some gentle stirs until the apples are well coated with the sugar and spice. While they are all getting acquainted, place one pie crust into a glass pie pan. Fit the crust into the pan and trim off any edges if necessary.

While you work on your crust, your apples will start smelling wonderful and will have taken on a gooey pie filling texture.

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Pour apples into crust and spread them around evenly.
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Then place your second crust on top. Pinch the edges together. You can do this very fancy-like or go for a more “rustic” look like I do. With a knife, cut some slits into the top crust to let the steam out. You can also write your favorite letter in the middle
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Place your pie pan on a cookie sheet so that if your pie should dribble, it won’t dirty your oven. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes at 400 until golden brown.

Fresh Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

All good things must come to an end and so it is with strawberry season. I decided to close out the streak of strawberry laden CSA boxes with this cake recipe that I found on The Country Cook’s website. The frosting recipe that accompanied seemed a little lacking in cream cheese for my taste so I drug my old faithful Betty Crocker cookbook and used that recipe instead.

Not only did this cake turn out delicious, it’s also very pretty. It would make great cupcakes too. And a new summer tradition is born…

Fresh Strawberry Cake
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1 box vanilla, white or yellow cake
1 3oz box of strawberry Jell-O
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1 cup crushed fresh strawberries*

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray.

In a bowl, combine cake mix and Jell-O and stir until combined. Stir in oil, eggs and water. I used an electric mixer to get everything mixed up well. Then, stir in the strawberries. Gently mix in with a spoon until strawberries are mixed throughout batter. Pour into pan and bake 30 to 35 minutes until done. Test for doneness by using a toothpick; if it comes out clean, your cake is done. Let cake cool completely before frosting.

*To obtain a cup of crushed strawberries, you will need about a pint of fresh strawberries. Wash them, pat dry, cut off the stems, and slice in half, then put them in a heavy Ziploc bag. You can then crush them with a rolling pin or with your hands. These farm fresh strawberries were so tender that I was able to crush them just by squeezing the bag with my hands. Store bought strawberries may be a little more resistant.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese, milk and vanilla in medium bowl with electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until smooth and spreadable. Resist the urge to stick your head in the bowl and eat all of the frosting because it will occur.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Bread

Of all of the fruits and veggies that I will encounter in my CSA adventures, I daresay that strawberries will be one of the easiest ones to find recipes for. I had no trouble gathering strawberry recipes and I chose this one because I love bread, and also because it called for buttermilk, which I had on hand from making the Strawberry Cornmeal Muffins.

There are several versions of this recipe out on the inter webs and I used one found at The Baker Upstairs. I made no changes to her recipe; there was no need to! My taste testers told me that they enjoyed the bread even more than the muffins. And they really liked the muffins!
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Strawberry Cream Cheese Bread

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups strawberries, rinsed, dried and chopped

Spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and cream cheese until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla. In separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Blend flour mixture with butter mixture just until blended. Add buttermilk and stir until just combined; do not over mix. Carefully fold in strawberries. Dough mixture will be thick. Bake in a 350°F oven for 50 to 60 minutes.

Shout out to my honey of a hubby who came to my rescue when my stand mixer got out of whack during mid-recipe!