Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bunny Bait



I can't believe Easter is a week away. This year is flying by. 

We register for kindergarten tomorrow and I can't even believe that!! Honestly, I'm not really emotional about it (yet). It's an exciting milestone and I know that the princess is totally excited and ready to start school. Being an only child, she is completely ready for some interaction with other kids. I just hope she can keep the drama toned down and listen to her teacher. 

The princess is somewhat of a late bloomer. She really didn't get excited about Halloween and Christmas until this past year. She's getting excited about Easter now too. We talk about the Easter Bunny and how he comes to your house and brings you an Easter basket filled with goodies. Since she kinda sees the Easter Bunny being like Santa, she asked if we needed to leave him anything for his visit. I suggested we make Bunny Bait. It was the perfect snack for her to assist on, as I am generally an OCD control freak in the kitchen and do not share my time well (mother of the century, I know). She said she liked it, except it could use more M&Ms. LOL!

Happy Easter Y'all!!


Bunny Bait

4 cups Chex cereal (I used corn, but you could totally use rice too)
4 cups Cheerios
4 cups mini pretzels (you could also use pretzel stix as well)
2 cups mini marshmallow bits
1 bag of Easter M&Ms
Pastel confetti sprinkles
1 (24oz) almond bark


Combine the first 5 ingredients in a large mixing bowl. 

Melt the almond bark in a double boiler or in the microwave in a microwave safe bowl. Personally, I find it easier to use the double boiler. Once all the almond bark is melted, pour over the cereal mixture. Stir gently making sure all the mixture is coated with the almond bark. 

Next, pour the mixture out onto a cookie sheet. You may need to use two, depending on the size of your cookie sheet. Spread out the mixture evenly and then pour sprinkles generously over the top. Allow to cool and then gently break into pieces and store in an airtight container.
 



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Bourbon Pecan Pie



It's amazing how time really does fly. Today, it's been 10 years since my father passed away due to a massive heart attack. Ten Years!! It's crazy. It seems like yesterday, but yet, it seems like forever ago too. (Makes sense, I know)

My dad was a pretty awesome guy and an amazing father. He worked hard to make sure that we had a comfortable life, which we totally did. By no means were we ever rolling in money, but I didn't grow up in near poverty like he did. When he was 16 years old, his mother passed away from a heart attack and I believe 2 years after that, his father died of cancer. He rarely talked about his childhood, to me anyway, but I will never forget what he said to me one time. "Shannon, I came home from football practice one day and all of a sudden I didn't have a mother, so don't ever take your mother for granted." He definitely made sure that I treated my mother will love and respect (which I totally would have anyway because she is the most wonderful, amazing person I know).


He looks so enthused! Circa late 70s.


I loved spending time with him, especially going to UT football games. I'm sure he is looking down, very proud that I am still going and rooting for our team. However, he may not be too enthused that I take my hardcore Big Ten Conference-is-better-than-the-SEC diehard Michigan Wolverine loving Yankee husband. :) :) :) (just kidding....somewhat).  Even after 10 years, the first home game of the season is an emotional one for me, but I try to contain myself. I don't want to be that crazy lady that cries every time the band comes out and the players run through the Power T. :)

Of course, he and I butted heads there a few times when I started getting brave enough to try him, but I see now that it was because we were way too much alike. I mean, scarily alike. And now that I'm a parent, I can totally hear my him in my voice and see him in my actions when I have to discipline the little princess. And speaking of the princess, I SO wish he were here to see her. I would love to see him just fall absolutely in love with her. He would never admit it, but he totally would be wrapped around her little finger.

So, today, on the 10th anniversary of heaven gaining a terrific man, I made a Bourbon Pecan Pie in remembrance of my dad. He loved bourbon (as do I) and he loved pecan pie. I really think he would love the marriage of the two.


*NOTE - Now, please don't send me messages about how you see a George Dickel bottle in the background of this post and that Dickel is whiskey NOT bourbon. I know this. It's Tennessee whiskey and it's awesome, and just like my dad, it is what I always drink.




Bourbon Pecan Pie
Recipe slightly adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito

1 Pie dough
2 cups pecan halves, toasted
3 eggs, large
3/4 cup light corn syrup
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons bourbon (or whiskey)


Pie Dough
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon fine salt
2 sticks of cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3/4 cup ice cold water

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Toss the cold cubed butter into the flour mixture and the pour into a food processor and pulse in short bursts until the pieces of butter are the size of hazelnuts.

While pulsing in quick, 4-second bursts, drizzle the ice water into the food processor through the feed tube.

When the dough comes together in a ball remove it from the food processor and divide it into two equal parts. Flatten to a disk and wrap each disk first in parchment paper and then in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the disks until firm, about an hour. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before proceeding with the recipe.)
 

Dust a clean work surface with flour and unwrap the ball of chilled pie dough and place on prepared work surface. Roll out the dough into a 12-inch round and then transfer the dough to a pie dish and carefully work it into the dish, folding any overhand under and crimping the edge as you go. Place the crust in the freezer while you make the rest of the pie ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Take about 3/4 cup of the toasted pecans and coarsely chop them, then set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs together until combined. Next, add the corn syrup, sugars, butter, salt, vanilla extract, and bourbon.  Whisk again until combined. Stir in the chopped pecans. Then, get the crust out of the freezer and pour the filling into the pie shell. Arrange the remaining 1 1/4 cups pecan halves on top of the filling.

Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, then cover the edges of the crust loosely with foil and bake for another 30 minutes. Test the pie by sticking a knife in the center of the filling. If the knife comes out clean, the pie is done. If the knife comes out with clumps of filling sticking to it, bake 5 minutes longer and then retest.

Cool the pie on a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature. Store the pie in the fridge, tightly covered, for up to 2 days.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Easter M&M Blondies



I can't pass up Easter candy. It's packaged so cute and hard to resist. My favorite this year is the Twix Egg. (Oh. My. Wow.) I'm not sure if it's new this year or not, but this is the first year I've seen it and I literally have to force myself not to buy a whole palette full. Yes, they are that good. 

When Target had M&Ms on sale, I had to buy a bag. I figured I'd just make some festive M&M chocolate chip cookies for Easter, but as I was flipping through my cookbooks, I saw this recipe for blondies. The original recipe is really for drunken blondies (which sounds totally amazing and I will definitely try at a later date), but I thought it would be great to throw the festive M&Ms in the mix and make them Easter themed. These blondies are really good. I love the soft, chewy, almost underdone texture and the M&Ms look so pretty. They are also easy to throw together, which is always a plus!





Easter M&M Blondies
Recipe slightly adapted from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook by Cheryl Day & Griffith Day

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 sticks (1/2 lb) unsalted butter, melted 
2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
1 bag Easter Bunny Mix M&M candies

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9X13 pan and line with parchment paper, allowing the ends of the parchment to hang over the two opposite edges of the pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, stir the melted butter and brown sugar together with a wooden spoon until smooth.  Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in the flour mixture, coconut, and M&Ms. (I left a big handful of M&Ms out so I could place them on the top of the mixture when it was spread out in the pan).

Place the batter in the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack. Using the excess parchment paper as handles, remove the blondies from the pan and then cut the blondies into bars.

Blondies will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Buttermilk Biscuits



To me, there are few things better than a hot, buttery homemade biscuit. Smothered in a sausage gravy, sandwiching a nice piece of country ham, or even plain, a homemade biscuit is kinda like getting a nice warm hug from my grandmother.

Speaking of my grandmother, she was a really good baker/cook and I've tried to replicate some of her dishes. She never wrote anything down which means I have no recipes to go by. (Kicking myself right now that I didn't pay more attention while in the kitchen with her). I remember her making really tasty biscuits. She made angel biscuits, drop biscuits and my favorite, buttermilk biscuits. I found this buttermilk biscuit recipe on Food.com and while it isn't my grandmother's, it does produce really nice, soft biscuits.






I like to make a batch of these biscuits up, cut them out and then place them on a cookie sheet and freeze them for about 30 minutes. Then, I remove them from the baking sheet and put them in a freezer safe zip-loc bag. That way, when I wake up in the morning, all I have to do is preheat the oven to 450 and bake for 20 minutes and then I can have beautiful homemade buttermilk biscuits for breakfast.  Easy!!




Buttermilk Biscuits
Recipe from Food.com

2 cups all-purpose flour (I prefer White Lily)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons butter, unsalted, very cold, and cut into pieces
1 cup cold buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the dry ingredients and pulse just a few times to incorporate all the ingredients together.  Next, add the pieces of cold butter and pulse a few times, cutting the butter into the flour until it resembles course meal. Then add the buttermilk and mix until just combined. The dough will look wet and will be sticky.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface.  VERY GENTLY pat the the dough out until it's about 1/2 inch thick. Fold the dough just a couple of times and then gently press the dough down to about 1 inch thick. Use a round biscuit cutter to cut out rounds.

Gently knead the scrapes together and make a few more rounds, but since they will be handled more, they won't be as perfect as the first round. (but they will still be good though)

Place the biscuits on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. I brushed the tops of my biscuits with some melted butter before I put them in the oven, but that's totally your preference. If you like crusty sides, make sure the biscuits aren't touching on the baking sheet. If you like soft sides, place the biscuits so they are touching each other.





Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lemon Ginger Scones



Spring started today. We can actually see it here in Tennessee. It was a nice sunny day and the temperature was pretty great, like 59 degrees.

So to celebrate Spring's arrival, I made these Lemon Ginger Scones. Lemon screams springtime to me, so I couldn't resist this recipe I saw on Joy of Baking.  Plus, I had some crystallized ginger in my pantry. I found it at Trader Joe's pretty cheap and I was really wanting to use it.

I like these scones. I like the bits of sweet, yet spicy ginger throughout and they are not too sweet, so the sweet lemon glaze is perfect on them. My rule: Scones should always be glazed. ALWAYS!! :)



Lemon Ginger Scones
Recipe from Joyof Baking.com

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, unsalted and cold, cut into cubes
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, chopped into small pieces
Zest of a large lemon
2/3 cup cold buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or silicone mat.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Using a pastry blender, or two knifes, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it looks like coarse crumbs.  Then, stir in the ginger pieces and the lemon zest.  Add the buttermilk to the flour mixture and stir until all the dough comes together. Try not to over mix the dough.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough together about four or five times. Do this gently. Then pat the dough into a circle, about 7 inches round and 1 1/2 inches thick.  Cut the circle in half, the cut each half into 4 pie-shaped wedges.  Place the scones on a baking sheet and brush the tops with some cream. (I used half and half).

Bake at 400 degrees for around 20-23 minutes or until nice and golden brown. Transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool. I let them cool completely before I glaze them with the lemon glaze.

For the Lemon Glaze: 

1 cup powdered sugar
2 T. fresh lemon juice

Mix both ingredients in a bowl and stir until combined. Drizzle over cool scones.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Salted Whiskey Caramels



These caramels may not be made with Irish Whiskey, but this is my contribution to St. Patrick's Day today!!

I've been wanting to make caramels for a while, so the other day I just bit the bullet and went for it. I thought these Salted Whiskey Caramels were perfect for my first time caramel making adventure. I had had them before when my good friend, So How's it Taste?, brought them to work a couple of years ago. Anything with whiskey/bourbon has got to be good, right? If you need help with that one, the answer is YES!!

These caramels are fantastic! I thought they were pretty simple to make and I loved the end result -- a smooth, chewy sweet caramel with a slight crunch from the sea salt. You can use any whiskey/bourbon that you desire. I used Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey. I think it's sweetness worked well in the caramels and I had it on hand since it's my new favorite.



Salted Whiskey Caramels
Recipe via So How's It Taste?

5 tablespoons butter
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup (2 oz.) whiskey (I used Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
Extra course sea salt, for sprinkling

Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment, foil, or wax paper and allow the paper to drape over the two sides, so you can use them as handles. Spray it lightly with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a medium size saucepan, heat the butter, whipping cream, whiskey, vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to boiling, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat; set aside.

In a large size saucepan, mix the sugar, corn syrup, and water together. Heat the mixture to boiling over a medium-high heat. DO NOT STIR. Boil until the sugar turns to a nice warm golden brown and reaches 310 degrees F.

When the sugar mixture is done, turn off the heat and SLOWLY add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Be very careful - it will bubble up like crazy. Turn the heat down to a medium-low heat and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F (firm ball stage) on a candy thermometer. Pour the caramel into the pan and let cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the extra course salt and then let cool completely.

Peel away the paper lining of the pan and using a sharp knife, cut into squares, or do like I did and mold into little caramel logs. Wrap each piece in parchment or wax paper twisting the sides closed.

I got about 50 pieces of caramel out of this recipe, but it will totally differ depending on what size you cut your pieces, plus I couldn't keep "taste testing" them!!!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Buttermilk Chess Pie

 

Happy Pi Day!!!

Yes, today is 3/14, which is Pi, or to a food blogger, PIE!! Either way, happy day to ya!

I made this Buttermilk Chess Pie in an effort to use up my buttermilk. I can't bring myself to drink it (um, hello yuck) so when I buy it, I always scramble around to use it up. I know that you can freeze it and I tried that once, but it looked really separated when I thawed it out. Do you freeze leftover buttermilk? Let me know your techniques. 

I do make some pretty awesome buttermilk biscuit dough and then freeze the individual biscuits for whenever I want biscuits for breakfast.  I just pop them in the oven and I have wonderful homemade biscuits in 20 minutes or so.  I hope to share that recipe with you pretty soon. I also hope to share a pie crust recipe as well. Since I haven't done that yet, for this recipe I just suggest you use a refrigerated pie crust or use your own favorite recipe.

 
Buttermilk Chess Pie


 1 pie crust - your favorite homemade recipe or just by the refrigerated pie crust

1 1/2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
4 eggs, large
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


Preheat oven to 350.
 
Make your pie crust dough or follow directions on box of refrigerated pie dough.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the sugar and the butter until pale, about 3 minutes. Next, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Then, add the flour, cornmeal, and the salt and mix until well combined. Add the buttermilk, lemon zest and the juice and mix well.

Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 325 degrees and continue baking for 45-55 minutes, until the custard is a golden brown and set around the edges. The center will still be slightly jiggly, but it will firm up as it cools. Allow the pie to cool for at least 2 hours before slicing.

Pie is best served the same day, but cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days if needed. 


Are you wondering how you can use up your buttermilk before it expires?

Try these ..












 

 
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