The last few days have been a bit, well, what’s the word…bad? No, that will not do. Terrible. Dreadful. Upsetting. Frustrating. Disheartening. Disappointing. Oh, and tear inducing. Those will work.
Here is my story. I was scheduled to leave Amarillo Friday morning at 6:55 to help prepare everything for my sisters baby shower that is today at 3. I took the day off of work a few weeks ago, and days off are a precious commodity. As you may or may not know Amarillo received a good foot of snow on Thursday resulting in both Ben and I getting the day off! So exciting! Or so I thought.
The Panhandle weather also caused business closures, highway closures, and flight cancellations. As of this moment my flights have been cancelled and rescheduled a total of 3 times. If all goes well, I will be in Austin tonight. I will miss the baby shower and the 3 dozen bird cookies that I made will not be enjoyed. The cookies I spent all day Thursday rolling and baking. Argh. They are cute, no?
I know that I should not complain. Some people have been affected by the weather in far worse ways than I. I am in a warm house and I am safe, so I am thankful for that. I am sad about not being able to see my family. After Southwest called me this afternoon to cancel my morning flight for tomorrow I decided that I needed to make something for dinner that would bring some sort of comfort to my weary soul! Nothing says comfort like chicken noodle soup.
I have a food related post in the works. In the meantime, I must post this of my dog. She is a mutt. We have no idea what exactly she’s made of. All I know for sure is that she has quite a bit of neurotic crazy in her.
Our pristine white front lawn was ruined by her excrement this morning…dogs will be, and must be, dogs.
Banana Bread Part I was posted almost 8 months ago. I get these ideas in my head about how I’ll post a series of recipes in a row devoted to one thing or another. I get very excited about it, but after my first post in a series…I usually fail to continue. This was the case with the banana bread and with my Seinfeld recipes. I did succeed in a series of pumpkin recipes and a rolled food series. OK, so I guess I’m 2-2 in my attempts at a series of posts. This (if I can get one more banana bread recipe completed) will make my record 3-2! Not too bad.
There is a freezer bag with 18 bananas in my freezer. I was about to place 6 more soft, blackened beauties in there today when I thought, “This is silly. Why don’t I just bake some crazy delicious banana bread?” My favorite banana bread has coconut and pecans. It is so very decadent. Almost dessert like. You should definitely try it. Seriously.
This banana bread also contains coconut, but with the addition of buttery macadamia nuts and sweet pineapple this banana bread becomes…Hawaiian banana bread! I love the way that it has made my house smell during its hour long baking time. I adapted a recipe from epicurean.com to create this bread. The amounts of the ingredients are the same, I just made some substitutions: walnuts replaced by macadamias, a cup of all purpose flour traded in for a cup of whole wheat, and I added a cup of shredded coconut.
I love banana bread sliced and eaten plain, but banana bread sliced, buttered and broiled is tremendously delicious. The contrast of the crunchy top and soft interior is lovely. Try it both ways and let me know what you think.
I found a great way to mash my bananas when I made this bread. Turns out that a potato masher is a great way to mash your bananas to a perfect smooth consistency. I love finding new ways to use things in my kitchen!
The combination of flavors in this bread is great. Sweet pineapple, mellow coconut, buttery macadamias all mixing with delicious banana. Feel free to change the macadamias to any nut you like, but I think they make this bread a bit different than other banana breads.
First thing’s first…I cheated. I did not make the graham wafers. I am a terrible person. I promise to make them another time, pinky promise! I just did not have the time. Well, that is only partially true. I could have had the time if I’d actually looked at my January commitments and planned ahead. This last week of January finds me in San Diego for 3 days for a conference for work, two days at home in Amarillo and then I head to Austin for 4 days for my sister’s baby shower and grandpa’s 90th birthday celebration. AND I have to somehow fit in the baking of a few dozen cut-out bird cookies for the shower. When it rains it pours, people.
The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.
Now you’re thinking, “She’s a double cheater!” You’re right. I didn’t even consider trying to make anything gluten free. Again, the lack of time and my laziness got the better of me! Also, I think I like gluten. It sounds like glutton…
I had to make the bars before I left for sunny (sorta) San Diego in order to get them done before the craziness began. When you’re a cheater like me and you use store-bought graham crackers these bars come together very quickly. You have to give them some time in the fridge before enjoying them, but other than that they are quick and simple.
After chilling in the fridge they have a beautiful hard chocolate-y layer which innocently hides the sweet soft vanilla layer beneath it. I was not thinking about this HARD chocolate layer when I took a knife to these bars. All, or almost all, of the chocolate cracked and popped off the top of the bars. I should have waited a few minutes after taking them from the fridge to let the chocolate soften a bit and adhere to the creamy layer. You live, you learn.
Even with the shattered chocolate layer, which I managed to somehow replace on a few pieces, these were very delicious. I will be making these again. Delicious.
1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (Shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons (40 mL) Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Vanilla Custard Powder (Such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted.)
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Icing Sugar
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter
1. For bottom Layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.
2. For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.
3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.
Paula Deen. What a woman. I actually do kind of like her! Yes, she can overdo it a bit when it comes to butter, bacon and cream, but I find her endearing. I’d like her to be in my family so that I could see her a few times a year at family functions. She’d be my Great Aunt Paula who always gives me super tight, full-frontal hugs. She seems like she makes everyone around her happy…or at least full of incredibly rich comfort food, which pretty much equates to happiness, right? Maybe you think I’m wrong, and that’s OK. Regardless of what you think about Paula Deen though, I think we can all agree that this sounds delicious. How can something sweet and gooey, with ingredients like toffee pieces, butter and cream cheese be bad?
This cake is by no means a classy or visually impressive dessert. It’s not something that you would serve at a fancy dinner party, but it would be a crowd pleaser at a pot-luck or at a small, casual family dinner.
When you search “gooey butter cake” on Google, your first results will most likely be Paula Deen recipes. However, she is not the inventor of the cake. It originated in St. Louis in the 1940s and is typically not a dessert cake, but a coffee cake. This Paula Deen version is too rich and sweet to be served as a coffee cake, in my opinion. I found a recipe today for one made from scratch that I plan to try soon. The base is made with a yeast dough that rises around the edges of the butter, cream cheese and sugar filling.
The cake mix makes this recipe very quick. However, the cake mix with the combination of butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and toffee make this cake very rich and incredibly sweet. Some people may not like it (like Ben) for this very reason. I am OK with crazy sweet desserts, so I liked this cake. It should however be served in small pieces so that no one goes into a sugar coma. Here is a link to the recipe.
Gooey Toffee Butter Cake
(Courtesy of Paula Deen, Foodtv.com)
1 (18.25-ounce) box yellow cake mix
1 large egg
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 (16-ounce) box confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup almond toffee bits or chocolate toffee bits
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13 by 9 by-2-inch baking pan.
For the cake: In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well. Pat into the bottom of prepared pan and set aside.
For the filling: Still using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Dump in confectioners’ sugar and beat well. Reduce the speed and slowly pour in butter. Mix well. Fold in toffee bits.
Pour filling onto cake mixture and spread evenly. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Don’t be afraid to make a judgment call on the cooking time, because oven temperatures can vary. You want the center to be a little gooey, so don’t bake it past that point!
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into squares. Just remember that these wonderful cakes are very, very rich, and a little will go a long way.
When you describe something as being “vanilla” this may mean it is plain and simple, or it may be a more negative description meaning that something is ordinary, conventional or boring.
I like vanilla ice cream, but sometimes it can be so very…vanilla. I recently bought a half gallon of Bluebell Vanilla Bean ice cream instead of my usual purchase of Homemade Vanilla. Homemade Vanilla is a vanilla ice cream that can be eaten end enjoyed plain. The Vanilla Bean, in my opinion, cannot. I needed something to make it a little more interesting. Something to kick it up a notch. Chocolate syrup was not going to do it for me. I found this recipe for caramel sauce on Simply Recipes, and it was terrific.
I had all the ingredients (there are only three!) and it didn’t take long at all. The only part that takes any time is waiting for the sugar to melt. Everything else goes extremely quickly. So, heed the advice in the recipe and have everything ready to go before you start. And use a pan with high sides. The cream definitely makes the sugar mixture spatter, and it is hot. Be careful.
My caramel sauce was pretty dark, but very delicious. I poured it warm over some vanilla ice cream the night I made it and it was perfect. I kept the rest in the fridge for a day or so. When I wanted some more, I just scooped a spoonful out of the jar and heated it in the microwave. Easy-peasy.
First, before you begin, make sure you have everything ready to go – the cream and the butter next to the pan, ready to put in. Making caramel is a fast process that cannot wait for hunting around for ingredients. If you don’t work fast, the sugar will burn. Safety first – make sure there are no children under foot and you may want to wear oven mitts; the caramelized sugar will be much hotter than boiling water.
Heat sugar on moderately high heat in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart or 3-quart saucepan. As the sugar begins to melt, stir vigorously with a whisk or wooden spoon. As soon as the sugar comes to a boil, stop stirring. You can swirl the pan a bit if you want, from this point on. Note that this recipe works best if you are using a thick-bottomed pan. If you find that you end up burning some of the sugar before the rest of it is melted, the next time you attempt it, add a half cup of water to the sugar at the beginning of the process, this will help the sugar to cook more evenly, though it will take longer as the water will need to evaporate before the sugar will caramelize.
As soon as all of the sugar crystals have melted (the liquid sugar should be dark amber in color), immediately add the butter to the pan. Whisk until the butter has melted.
Once the butter has melted, take the pan off the heat. Count to three, then slowly add the cream to the pan and continue to whisk to incorporate. Note than when you add the butter and the cream, the mixture will foam up considerably. This is why you must use a pan that is at least 2-quarts (preferably 3-quarts) big. (Check here for an explanation of why adding the cream makes the mixture bubble up so much.)
Whisk until caramel sauce is smooth. Let cool in the pan for a couple minutes, then pour into a glass mason jar and let sit to cool to room temperature. (Remember to use pot holders when handling the jar filled with hot caramel sauce.) Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Warm before serving.
As some of you may know I have a bit of an obsession with Rebecca Rather and her bakery in Fredericksburg, Texas. I saw her there once and I was starstruck! She was signing a book for someone, and I thought about getting her to sign my face…but thought better of it. OK, so I am not that obsessed. Honestly though, the bakery is incredible and so is her Pastry Queen cookbook. I have made a total of 16 recipes from it, and everything has been wonderful. I know I’ve said this before, but it’s true. No failures, no disasters, no disappointments to speak of. Buy it now.
This last recipe that I tried from her cookbook was no exception to the rule of deliciousness. Buttermilk Pecan Pie. I love pecan pie. My grandma June’s is by far my favorite. Grandma June’s pie is a classic pecan pie with the corn syrup and yummy gooey center. Rather’s buttermilk pie is creamier, with just a bit of gooey going on. I am one who likes the gooey-ness, but some people are averse to pecan pie goo. Crazy, I know. So this would be a good alternative for those crazy goo hating people who like pecans and pie.
I did not make my own pie crust. I am so very sorry. I had a Pillsbury one in the freezer and was short on time, so I gave in and took a shortcut. One day I will have the time to make everything from scratch all the time, but at this point in my life I do not have that kind of time!
Serve this pie with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Leftovers are tricky. Some things are great left over. Pizza is even good cold straight from the fridge for breakfast. Lasagna, spaghetti, and most casseroles take to reheating very well. Unfortunately, a lot of foods are not good on their own left over. However, with some creativity, leftovers can be transformed into something deliciously new and sometimes even better than the original.
I made tarragon chicken fricassée the other night and it was great. Since it made 4 pretty big servings of chicken, I was left with two chicken breasts and some sauce. What to do with these leftovers? I was not about to toss them in the trash. I thought about chopping them up and making chicken salad or combining them with the leftover egg noodles and some sauteed mushrooms and making a baked pasta. I have no idea what made me think of crepes. Some supreme culinary power must have influenced me, because it was a wonderful idea. Chicken and mushroom crepes!
I know what you’re thinking. Crepes are meant to be eaten for breakfast. OR with sugar sprinkled in them, wrapped in paper, handed to you by a cute little Frenchman from a food cart and munched on while walking the streets of Paris at 10 pm. Or is that just me? I had the luxury of doing that exact thing on a French club trip in high school. I must go back there.
Crepes are not meant to be confined to the categories of breakfast and sweets. They can be a perfect thing upon which to serve savory items as well! There is an adorable little trailer restaurant called Flip Happy Crepes in Austin where my sister and I ate for her birthday a few years ago. We ate lunch there and didn’t even try the sweet crepes. This was my first introduction to the savory crepe, and it was spectacular.
My attempts in writing the title to this post resulted in many misspellings of the word “fricassée”. I will not tell you the number of times I tried and failed to spell it…and do not ask Ben, because he will probably tell you and I will be embarrassed.
Despite the difficulty involved in spelling this French word, this tarragon chicken fricassée was quite easy to prepare and very delicious.
Fricassée is, by definition, meat, usually chicken or veal, browned lightly, stewed, and served in a sauce made with its own stock. The origin of the word itself is French, but there are many regional variations of a fricassée. Greek and Cuban fricassée are a few that I saw while searching for recipes.
The meal I made was, if I had to ascribe it to a region, French. I love the flavor of the fresh tarragon. It gives this dish an incredibly fresh flavor and perfectly slight sweetness. Tarragon is a classic herb used in French cooking, and is considered to be one of the four fine herbs of Mediterranean cooking. The other three are parsley, chives and chervil.
Some fricassée recipes use a variety of vegetables along with the chicken. Quite a few recipes included mushrooms and onions. A few had vegetables like peas, beans or peppers. One recipe I saw had apples. This recipe is simple in that the only vegetables to be found are shallots and tarragon. Is garlic a vegetable? Is tarragon a vegetable? Anyway. This is a simple chicken fricassée which allows for the flavors of the tarragon, chicken, white wine and cream to really shine and not be covered or overshadowed by a bunch of other stuff.
Everything in the recipe below is just as it was originally, except I used 4 chicken breasts and added more tarragon. You can find the original recipe here. I served this with green beans with toasted walnuts and egg noodles. I will definitely be making this again. I used the leftovers in a really special meal the following evening…more on that later.
Tarragon Chicken Fricassée
4 bone-in chicken breasts (skin on or off)
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup finely chopped shallots
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 ½ – 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
¼ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Pat chicken dry and sprinkle all over with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté chicken in 2 batches, skin side down first, turning over once, until browned, 10 to 12 minutes total per batch. Transfer to a plate.
Pour off all but 2 tablespoons oil from skillet, then cook shallots, garlic, and bay leaf over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until shallots are softened, about 2 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil. Stir in cream, broth, and 1 tablespoon tarragon, then add chicken, skin side up, and simmer, covered, until just cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer chicken with tongs to a platter and keep warm, loosely covered. If necessary, boil sauce until thickened slightly.
Stir in lemon juice, remaining 1/2 tablespoon tarragon, and salt and pepper to taste. Discard bay leaf; pour sauce over chicken.
Like most kids do at some point in their lives, I once had a bit of an obsession with fire and burning little objects. It wasn’t a huge deal. I stuck to simple things like notebook paper and tissues. My days of burning things came to an abrupt end when I tried to burn the end of a mechanical pencil and caused a serious stench in my room. That was the end of that.
A few years ago my sister Sarah rekindled my obsession when she uttered this phrase a day or so after Christmas, “Let’s burn down the gingerbread house.” And that is what we did. With the help of my dad and some lighter fluid, we burnt that house down.
This year I wanted to get rid of my gingerbread house, but did not want to throw it away, and it was not meant to be eaten. What was I to do? Well, the only option seemed to be demolition by fire. I wanted to do this on New Years Eve, but that did not exactly happen. So, I tried again with much success about a week later. The only thing I failed to consider was the can of jalapeños that I’d trapped inside my gingerbread house during construction remained in the house. You probably know what happens to a can that is heated beyond what it can bear. It definitely exploded.
It was a controlled burn, and no one was harmed. I sat the house outside on the concrete and kept a close eye on it. I highly recommend you try this at some point. It is great fun and is a completely free form of entertainment.
Here is how it all went down. From beginning to end.
1. Pre-burned house. So adorable!
2. The burning begins. I suggest starting a little fire inside the house to get things going. I used a little tea light and some shredded paper.
3. After a while, things really got going.
4. I should have taken some in between shots, but this is what happens after some good burning time. This is when Ben begins to complain about the smell.
5. And in this picture you can see the can of jalapeños, post explosion. Good times had by all.