Friday, December 28, 2012

Sumptuous Finger Foods!

Hope you all had a great Christmas
and are now gearing up
to enter into a New Year!
We've had a busy week
and are even partying it up
with more Christmas celebrating
with family as we speak.
We even had SNOW
on Christmas day -
which was a first time
experience for many adults!!!

If you need some snack ideas
for your upcoming New Year's gathering
or for game night,
check out the lastest
Wedded Bliss article
for some super yummy options!
(photo by Jamie Maldonado)

Have a happy and safe
New Year's and

Friday, December 21, 2012

Visions of Sugar Cookies

Yea, I know what you're saying.
Those cookies don't look Christmas-ey AT ALL.
That's the beauty of the sugar cookie.
It can be anything you ever dreamed it could be.
Cookie cutters, no cookie cutters,
they will still taste the same...awesome.

We traditionally make these cookies
every year around the holidays,
however, any pics I have of those past
holiday sugar cookies are on a
temporarily dead computer around here. 
Wedding cookies it is!!!!

The cookies in these pics were made for
THE sweetest, sweetest girl I tell you
(who I think should STILL be a
youth intern or AT LEAST a college kid)!
She was instrumental in our two oldest daughters lives...
leading by example outwardly AND inwardly.
Staci was the most beautiful December bride
and last year, these cookies made it all the way
to her wedding in Oklahoma!
We have been so blessed to have had her
AND her two equally as awesome
sister's be a part of our lives!!!

For this week's Free Recipe Friday
I am sharing with you this great old Martha Stewart recipe.
Cookies that we've made for ten plus years.
Once they are made, the dough is kept refrigerated
and can be brought out
to bake a few cookies at a time or a big batch.
Go ahead a make a batch of these up
and if you leave some for Santa,
he just might not leave your house!


2 cups flour (more for rolling out)
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup real butter (1 stick)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Non stick baking sheet or one lined with parchment
Royal Icing and other assorted candies, optional

With your mixer or in a large bowl
using a hand mixer,
cream together the sugar and butter
until it's pale yellow in color.
Add in vanilla and egg, mix well.
In a separate bowl, or right in the
measuring cup, combine the flour,
salt, and baking powder.
Slowly add in to first mixture
until just combined.
Don't overmix.
Divide by hand into two disks.
Wrap tightly with cellophane and refrigerate
several hours or overnight.

When you are ready to bake,
preheat oven to 325.
Remove one disk from the fridge
and let it warm up (about 15 minutes).
Dust your clean countertop with
a bit of flour. Begin to roll out dough
to 1/8 inch thickness.  Sprinkling flour
on top of dough to keep from sticking.
Continue rolling and rotating dough
until you reach the desired thickness.
Using cookie cutters (if desired)
begin cutting out your shapes. 
Either place on a cool cookie sheet
to bake immediately or
 a floured cutting board to keep in the fridge
to keep them from becoming too warm.
If you want to top with M&M's or sprinkles
instead of icing, do this before baking.

Once your cookie/baking sheet is full
bake for about 10 minutes.
You will barely see a golden color around the edges.
Don't bake them until they are brown.
Pale, pale, pale is what we are after here.
Remove from oven and let them sit a minute or two
before removing them to a cooling rack.

You can now place cookies in a ziploc baggie,
freeze them, or save them to decorate later.

For the first six years or so that we made these,
we basically did not use Royal Icing
as we do now.
If you want to go the Royal Icing route,
the internet is full of that easy to find recipe.

In our early years, before meringue powder
and not wanting to use raw egg whites,
we made a thick
powdered sugar and milk icing
with a few drops of vanilla or butter flavoring.
You seriously cannot mess it up.
Combine 2 or more cups of powdered sugar
with a few spoonfuls of milk and whisk away.
If it's too thick, add a tiny bit more milk
only adding a little at a time -
it takes surprisingly less milk than you would think.
It will be thinner than toothpaste (sorry)
but a bit thicker than honey.
(Now is the time to add coloring
if you want anything other than white).

After getting our mixture to just the right consistency,
we spooned it into a good ziploc baggie
 and snipped a small piece off of the corner.
We outlined each cookie with this thick icing
and in a matter of minutes, it was firm to the touch.
Using the leftover icing,
we thinned it with milk to a pourable
almost runny consistency.
We then used a teaspoon to 'pour in' the icing
in between the hardened outlines.
Now the tough part.
Letting the cookies 'dry.'
This may take a few hours or overnight,
depending on that good ol' humidity.
Once dried, cookies can be stacked a bit
and touch each other without fear of
any smudges. 

Leaving the cookies to 'air dry'
will not affect their texture
or dry them out.

From our crew to yours,
we hope you have a very
Merry Christmas!!!!!

And Happy (early) Anniversary
Staci & Tyler ;)

Friday, December 14, 2012

from our Cheesey Family to Yours ~

Although we've had many years of overeating
at Thanksgiving,
this year we kept it simple.
There were certainly those years
when the girls were small and we had to
visit every house and every relative,
but, at this chapter in our lives
things are a bit calmer as far as that goes.
Fewer houses to visit during the holidays
means a simpler time for all of us.

Now, back to our 'simple' Thanksgiving feast.
By a small meal I mean that
on the day OF when it was just our
little family (The newlyweds had other plans)
we ate a pretty small meal.
Don't get me wrong, we feasted over the weekend,
but on Thanksgiving day, we lounged at home
and ate a simple, yummy meal.
Loungey days are just the best aren't they?!
Spiral cut ham, roasted asparagus with
garlic, olive oil, butter and lemon.
To the side, we had a mixed green salad
with walnuts, craisins, bleu cheese and
a balsamic vinaigrette.
The icing on the cake was our Cheesey Bread.
This week's Free Recipe Friday.  YUMMO!
This bread would be so great with anything
from soups to salads to pasta - anything!
You can even tweak this recipe to add
any of your favs making it a great
holiday or super bowl crowd pleaser.

1 unsliced loaf of sourdough bread
12 oz. sliced provolone cheese
1/2 cup of butter, melted
1/2 cup or so of green onions, chopped

a few teaspoons of spices such as
garlic powder, garlic salt,
fresh thyme, poppy seeds - use your favs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the bread length-wise and width-wise
without cutting through the bottom crust.
This can be a little tricky going the second way
but the bread is very forgiving.
Just hold it a bit firmly and use
a good serrated knife.

Place the sliced bread onto a
foil lined baking sheet.
Insert slices of cheese in-between the cuts of bread.
As you can see in the pics,
it may look like alot of cheese,
but once melted, I was wishing I'd used more.
I didn't quite use the whole package of provolone.
So don't skimp.
Next time, I will use it ALL.

Melt butter in a small bowl
and combine with your choice of spices
along with the chopped green onions.
Pour over bread, spreading the cuts apart
and letting it get down into all areas of the bread.
Cover bread with a sheet of aluminum foil
and bake for about 15 minutes.
Remove foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes.
I hope you'll try this bread out
it is oh so easy and would be great
with most anything!


Friday, December 7, 2012

Fa La La La, Chocolate!

With our traditional 70 degree
December weather around here,
we've about given up on
ever having a white Christmas.
Putting up Christmas decor and sweating?! 
That's Texas for ya.
However, if you wanna have
a 'snow' covered kitchen,
get the kids involved in making these...
our most favorite-est cookies EVER.

Don't be fooled though.
You may think Martha Stewart
invented these - but these cookies
have been around for a very long time.
Even way back into my childhood.
Taking these to a family event
when we were younger was like
arriving with the Queen mother!
Ooh, aahhh.
You will become a celebrity
if you bring these to a festivity.
Well, maybe.

My big sis was always the one
in our family that was/is the 'go-to'
girl for making these.
She's just 'always' made them.
And we are very happy about this.
Do you have someone in your family
that is responsible for making
certain things for get-togethers?!
Maybe you should start by making these!!!

1/2 cup shortening
1 2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
5 tablespoons cocoa
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Powdered sugar, several cups to roll dough in

Cream together (mix together)
the first three ingredients.
Once well combined, mix in eggs.
Set aside.
In a separate microwavable bowl,
melt butter and mix in the cocoa
to make a soft paste.
Combine this into the creamed ingredients
and mix well.
In another separate bowl or
right in the measuring cup,
combine flour, baking powder and salt.
Alternately add flour mixture and milk
into the mixing bowl.
Mixing well between each addition
and beginning and ending with the flour.

Cover and refrigerate the cookie dough
for several hours or overnight.
(will yield: appx. 4-5 dozen - depending on size)
When ready to bake,
preheat oven to 350.
Pour several cups of powdered sugar
into a medium sized bowl.
Remove dough from fridge and
using a teaspoon, scoop dough into a
1 to 1 1/2 inch size ball and drop into
the powdered sugar.
Using only one of your hands
(always try and keep one hand 'clean'
during cooking and one hand to dip or batter
things - your phone will always ring
or you will need a free hand to
itch your face or something - trust me)

Okay, back to rolling your cookie dough balls
into the powdered sugar...
do not be skimpy with this -
pile on the powdered sugar!
Roll 'em around good and pack it on.
Place on a baking sheet that's been sprayed
with non-stick cooking spray.
I do the 3,2,3,2,3 method when loading
a cookie sheet.
I start with 3 balls of cookie dough across
for the first row,
then two, the next row 3, etc.
By alternating the rows,
it gives the cookies room to spread
and not stick together.
Fill up the baking sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let rest for a minute or so
before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling.

It's really a good idea to use two baking sheets
when baking cookies so you can
alternate pans and start each batch
on a cooled cookie sheet.
This way you can have one sheet baking
while you are prepping the next batch.
And they won't start to melt before baking.
We often consume most of these cookies
as they come out of the oven. (kidding)
BUT, if you have some left on your
cooling rack, place them in a sealed container
to keep fresh.  And/or double this batch!!!


Friday, November 30, 2012

Broken Scales?!

Did a few pounds happen to appear out of nowhere
and cling to you over Thanksgiving???
I heard a radio DJ say the other day that
he gained SIX pounds over the holiday.  EEK!
Thankfully, we only had ONE day of feasting around here,
but if you'd like to drop a few pounds
before the next eating fest, you might want to try
this week's Free Recipe Friday.

It's not fat-free, but carb-free? I think YES.
Baked Italian Salad is it's name,
but it actually tastes like the toppings off of a pizza.
It is DELISH!  Grrreat with a salad and a baguette?!
(IF you're not too carb conscious)

Obviously this dish would be PERRRfect
in the summer when fresh garden tomatoes
are plentiful...but store bought Roma's
work just fine here!

appx. 8 Roma tomatoes (or your fav)
Sea Salt/Black pepper
2-3 teaspoons Garlic, minced
1/4 - 1/2 cup Green olives (and/or black) sliced
1 medium Onion, sliced thinly
Fresh herbs (parsley and/or basil) opt.
Red pepper flakes, just a few
1/4 - 1/2 cup Parmesan
drizzle of Olive Oil
splash of Red wine

Preheat oven to 425
Spray a shallow dish with non-stick cooking spray.
You could use a pie plate, individual dishes
or use a dish to accommodate
whatever serving amount you need.
With this recipe, you just layer
as much as you need - there's no right or wrong.

Begin layering ingredients
starting by covering the bottom of your pan
with some tomatoes, then onions, garlic
a few flakes of red pepper, salt/pepper,
and a bit of parsley and/or basil.
Now start all over again and begin
another layer of tomatoes
then onions, seasonings, herbs, etc.
Two or three layers should be plenty.
When you've reached the top,
toss on the sliced olives -
as much or as little as you'd like.
To finish, top with Parmesan,
give it a splash of red wine all over
and finish it off with a drizzle of olive oil.
Bake until golden and bubbly
approximately 30 minutes.

Mmm!  Serve this along side a salad
and maybe some good crunchy bread
and you've got an amazing meal
that will not leave you feeling deprived!


Friday, November 23, 2012

Wake Up. . .It's Time to Eat Again!!!

For all you late nighters that were
out there doin' your Black Friday thing
until the wee hours - this is for you.
An easy go-to breakfast that'll
get you goin' whenever you decide to get up.

This week's Free Recipe Friday
is something we played around with
to try and dodge a carb overload
first thing in the morning.
It's an all-in-one breakfast in a muffin cup.
You can tweak it absolutely any way you like -
there's about a million variations.
Give it a try sometime - it sure beats
standing over a hot stove with bacon grease
splattering all over you!

I've come to love a more 'adult' style
breakfast these days...maybe because
a good part of my life
I was all about anything sweet for breakfast.
Cinnamon toast, a pop tart, cereal,
cinnamon roll, cake, pie - anything sweet.
As the years have flown by
I prefer saving the sweets
for another time of day and
having something savory for breakfast
with my coffee drinking self.

Breakfast items all revolve around
pretty much the same ingredients, don't they?!
A bread/grain, a meat, an egg, maybe cheese and fruit.
Every breakfast is just a variation of these things
and how you want to put them together.
Since I've grown to love more
bacon and eggy type breakfasts,
it doesn't mean I want to spend my whole
morning cooking it.  The quicker and easier
I can cook bacon or make a meal
including it, the better.

1 dozen large whole eggs
(because we used a 12 cup muffin tin -
you can certainly adjust and make less)

1  12 oz. pkg bacon (thin, cheap stuff)

Shredded Cheddar


Green Onions (optional)

Preheat oven to 350
and coat your muffin cups
with non-stick cooking spray.
 Line muffin cups with bacon and pre-bake
(because we like our bacon
a bit more crispy - you could easily jump ahead
and skip this step).
Bake approximately 20-30 minutes.
 After the bacon has some time to
cook, remove from oven
and crack an egg into each cup.
If you like more of a scrambled egg,
by all means, you can whisk the eggs
before pouring in each cup.

 Don't worry, the bacon will lose it's shape a bit
but just pour your egg right over it and all will be well.
There will be a bit of bacon grease in each cup,
but you'll be able to pour that out
once the muffins are done.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper
and return to the oven.
Bake for 5-10 minutes more
depending on what kind of egg you like.

When you remove the breakfast muffins
from the oven, carefully tilt pan
over a large bowl and pour off
excess bacon grease and then
top with a little shredded cheddar
and some chopped green onions.
If your muffin pan is as pathetic
as mine is, you'll need to use a knife
to loosen each muffin before removing
from the pan.

These are great 'as is' or would be great
between some toast or an english muffin
for an on-the-go breakfast.

Hope everyone had a great
Thanksgiving and all you crazies
recover quickly from your overnight shopping!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Oh How Olive You!

Does anyone love olives as much as I do?!?
Oh my-lanta! I love them so much!
Combine them with an easy quick bread
and VOILA, you have a taste bud explosion.

Quick breads are so great -
just dump your ingredients into a mixing bowl
whisk a bit and you're done.
Try out Cheese and Olive, Buttermilk Quick Bread
it's a super easy recipe -
it'd be great to go along side
a pasta meal, a salad
or as an hor dourve.
We made this bread for the first time
a few weeks ago and took to our
daughter and son in law's
for a great family dinner night.
She baked a whole chicken
for the very first time
and survived the horrifying experience.
Check out her blog about
our fantabulous night.

2 1/4 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
  1/2 cup parmesan
  1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup green olives, sliced
8 pieces sundried tomatoes, sliced thinly
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
2 eggs
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
(or substitute with milk -
use 1 1/4 cup of regular milk less 1 Tbsp
and add 1 Tbsp white vinegar or lemon juice.
Set aside for 10 minutes before using)

Egg wash - 1 egg yolk plus 2 tsp water, mixed
Extra Thyme and Sea Salt for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Generously butter a large loaf pan and either line it
with parchment paper or dust with flour. Set it aside.

  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, soda,
salt, pepper and mustard powder.
Whisk dry ingredients.
Add both cheeses, olives, sundried tomatoes
and thyme and stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs,
then whisk in the oil and buttermilk
until they are well combined.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture
and pour in the wet ingredients.
Stir together to form a thick, sticky batter.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan
and spread it out evenly.

Brush the top of the batter with the egg wash
and sprinkle some thyme leaves and sea salt
on top of the loaf.

Bake for 40 - 45 minutes or until a fine skewer
inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
If the top starts to brown too much, place a piece of foil
the top of the loaf and continue baking.
Remove from the oven but leave in the pan
for 5 minutes or so before turning onto a wire rack.
Serve immediately or wrap tightly
to keep it from drying out.
Warm in the microwave if serving another time.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Fixin' to Feast

Holiday time is right around the corner
which means feasting and fellowshipping 
with friends and family.

If you've never tried your hand at
Bread Pudding making
and want to start a family tradition
or maybe just try out a new recipe,
check out the November/December
online issue of The Wedded Bliss.
The Family Traditions - Bread Pudding
article will get you on your way.
Our family has made this recipe
for quite some time, even serving it up
in a local tea room years ago.
All of the photographs are
including step by step pics - 
so you just can't go wrong!

What a great addition this would be
to your holiday table!


Friday, November 2, 2012

Pop on Over

 Last weekend was taste test kitchen day at our house.
So sorry you missed it! :)
Trying out lots of different snacky recipes...
keeping some and tossing some.
These Bleu Cheese Popovers are about
the yummiest thing ever!
Ironically, the same time I was making our popovers,
unbeknownst to us, our daughter Shelby,
was trying out the awesome
Foreign & Domestic in Austin, Texas
and eating their famous Gruyere Popovers.
They are great for breakfast, brunch, lunch,
snack time, supper time...well, you get the idea.

You should whip some of these up real soon -
even if you're not a big fan of bleu cheese
 the flavor is so mild
you might not even know there's bleu cheese in them
(well, maybe)


2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 oz. Gorgonzola bleu cheese, crumbled
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 425.
In a medium size bowl,
lightly whisk together eggs and milk.
Quickly mix in flour and salt
without over mixing.
Batter will be slightly lumpy.
Unless you have a popover pan,
spray a large muffin pan
with non-stick spray.
(Popover pans generally make
the popover taller and more dramatic -
not changing the flavor in the least)
Pour batter into 10 muffin cups.
Sprinkle crumbled bleu cheese
evenly among all 10 cups.
Using a wooden spoon
pat cheese down into the batter
so it is not exposed.
Generously sprinkle black pepper
on top of each and bake for 15 minutes.
NO PEEKING - these are supposed to
be popovers and puff up.
Keep that heat in the oven!
After 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350
and bake 12-15 more minutes
or until deep golden brown.
Immediately remove muffins from pan
(you can scrape edges with a knife
if they begin to stick)

Super yummy any time of day!


Friday, October 26, 2012

Pigs, Elephants and Donkeys!

When pondering what to post this week
for Free Recipe Friday,
it was a toss up between a breakfast post
and a snacky post.
I went back and forth and back and forth.
Then I realized BOTH of my contenders
contained bacon (go figure).
So in honor of the giver of this recipe,
Uncle Brandon, and his upcoming birthday,
 the snack post won out.  
Here's to you Brandon!

With the holidays on the horizon
these little piggy treats need to go in the
keeper pile.
We made these during the last presidential debate.
James and I ate half of them during the debate
and the other half for breakfast. 
We. Are. Pigs.
Brandon, my brother in law,
made these for us one year when we piled in on them
at Christmas.  But that's a whole other story.
They'd be so great for game night, movie night,
or 'I can't get enough of bacon and sausage' night.

Sliced Bacon - a 12 ounce pkg, not maple
(use the cheap, thin stuff)
Lit'l Smokies - a 14 ounce pkg
(not the the cheesy kind)
Brown Sugar - 1 lb. (half of a 2 lb bag)
Water - 1 to 2 tablespoons
9x9 Baking Dish
Non Stick Spray

Preheat oven to 350.
Coat baking dish with non stick cooking spray.
Set aside.
Slice bacon slices in half.
(I use kitchen shears and cut the whole
stack in half - much easier than using a knife).
Grab a halved bacon slice and wrap firmly
around a lil' sausage.  Lay each in dish.
Continue wrapping sausages with bacon slices
until the bacon is used up. 
You will most likely have a few sausages leftover-
save them for an omelet or some scrambled eggs.
Next, cover the 'pork overload' with brown sugar.
Don't be shy here - you want to cover completely.
Drizzle a little water over the sugar,
maybe a tablespoon or two.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake.
After 30-40 minutes,
remove the foil and continue baking
for probably 30 more minutes.

disclaimer: I seriously lost track of time here -
we were watching the debate and
blah, blah, blah, blah, blah -
so if you happen to overcook
your little porkies - I do apologize -
but you should be perfectly fine.

You can certainly bake these a little less
or a little more depending on your taste.
We happen to like our bacon
on the crispy side instead of the floppy side.
But you can do what you want.
However, please oh please
DO NOT eat these until they have cooled a bit.
Even after the sugar bubbles have calmed down,
 resist the urge.  Hot, melted sugar = certain death.
 After they've cooled a bit - you will enter heaven on earth.


Friday, October 19, 2012

A Full Meal Deal

Once upon a time, long long ago
when our girls were in their preschool days
(at 'Sank Luke's' Mother's Day Out),
I had a very special friend who was an amazing cook.
I'm quite sure she is still an amazing cook...
 she is also a fab wife, mom and violin player!!!
She introduced me to sooo many great recipes,
including her no egg tuna fish. 
Stay tuned for THAT blog one day.
This 'Full Meal Deal' recipe is now
all over Pinterest.  So funny actually.
One of the easiest and simplest recipes ever
and more importantly, scrumptious.
The original recipe given to me over 15 years ago
was simply chicken, potatoes, corn, green beans
sprinkled with a packet of Good Seasons
Italian Dressing Mix.  In these 'modern times,'
I omitted the corn and used frozen whole green beans
and all was well with the world.
Now we use homemade Italian Dressing Mix, whoop!

-- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
-- 1 bag frozen/thawed fresh green beans
(the original recipe called for 1 can green beans
and 1 can whole kernel corn - either is fine)
-- 4-5 medium size baking potatoes
(more if you use red potatoes)
-- 1 (or 2) packets Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix
(Zesty Italian is great as well)
-- Butter - we went a little crazy

Begin by preheating the oven to 350.
Spray a 13x9 baking dish with non-stick spray.
Lay the ingredients listed in 3 rows or sections
of the pan (4 if using corn).
Sprinkle all liberally with the dressing mix
and dot all with butter.
Bake covered for appx 45 minutes or more
if your pan is extra crowded.
This recipe can be increased quite easily
when you have an extra mouth or two to feed.
Measurements do not have to be exact here.
Remove covering and let bake a few more minutes.
Mmmm enjoy your super easy meal.
Throw in some yummy yeast rolls and you have
a Full Meal Deal!


Friday, October 12, 2012

The Birthday Boy

German Chocolate Cake has been a staple
in my husband's family for longer than I've known him.
Even though he has German roots,
this cake didn't originate in Germany at all.
This cake was named for the creator of
a chocolate bar for the Baker Chocolate Company.
Samuel German was his name,
and his 46% cacao chocolate
became the star ingredient for the original cake
back in 1957.  The mild chocolate bar
gives this cake it's mild chocolate flavor.
Recipes for German Chocolate Cake
using 'German' Chocolate are still very popular,
however, my recipe is a bit simpler
and calls only for cocoa - which is usually
right in the pantry.
Easy schmeazy.

I can still remember the very first time
I had this cake at my mother in laws house.
At the time, it seemed like it was the first I'd ever had.
The reality is, maybe it's because once I realized
there was coconut involved in all the others,
I probably opted out.  But not that day.
Funny how things change as you grow up
and as you begin dating the one you'll soon marry.
That "first bite" of German Chocolate Cake that day
was the most delicious I had ever tasted.
It could have been because of my maturing taste buds
or just the simple fact that everything
was better when I was with the one I love.
Simple and classic, with that mellow chocolatey taste-
the world would be a much happier place
if everyone had a slice of this goodness every now and then!

2 cups sugar
1 cup veg. oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
(or combine 1 tablespoon vinegar
with a scant cup of milk to substitute)
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup boiling water

In a small saucepan (or in the microwave)
bring a few cups of water to boil.
Pour 1 cup of boiling water into a small size bowl
along with 1/2 cup cocoa.

In a separate medium size bowl,
mix together the remaining wet ingredients
followed by all of the dry ingredients.
Lastly, add in the cocoa/water mixture.
Mix well and pour into greased and floured
baking pans.  (Three, 8 inch rounds or a 9x13)
Bake at 350 for approximately 25 minutes.
Test by inserting a toothpick into the center
and if it comes out clean
(and not with wet batter) they're done.

Remove cake(s) from the oven
and cover with a sheet of wax paper (my special trick)
to cool a bit and keep the moisture in.
If you plan to flip out your cake, let the cake(s)
sit in the pans for several minutes.
Lay cooling rack on top of cake pan
keeping wax paper in between,
and flip cake over and cover bottom of cake
with another sheet of wax paper.
Let cakes cool before icing.
*Remove wax paper before icing -
did I really just say that?!?

2 cups milk
2 cups granulated sugar
6 egg yolks
(freeze the whites for another day -  
meringue maybe?!)
2 sticks butter
2 tsp vanilla

Coconut (appx. 2 cups)
Chopped Pecans or Walnuts (appx 2 cups)

In a medium size heavy sauce-pot,
bring all ingredients
(excluding coconut and nuts)
to a boil on medium heat.
Stir constantly for about 10 minutes.
It will be a light tan color.
Remove from heat and add
a couple of good handfuls of coconut
along with your preferred choice of nuts.
(We actually only added nuts to half of our cake.)
Add as much or as little as you'd like -
that's the bonus of making it yourself!
Let the icing cool a bit before icing the cake -
however, we usually bake this in a 9x13
so we poke a few holes in the cake
and pour the warm icing right over it.
It's really hard to wait for everything to cool!


Friday, October 5, 2012

Pick a Side, any Side

Fancy desserts, main courses, those are fairly easy.
The hard stuff for me often times are the sides.
Trying to be creative and avoid repetitiveness.
If you grew up like me, sides were pretty standard.
Delicious, but standard-ish.
Mashed potatoes, rice, green beans, peas...
you get the idea.

From time to time my mother would
serve sliced carrots that she had cooked
with a little butter and brown sugar.
Anyone cooking carrots that way?
I tried really hard to like them.  I did.
And I guess I really shouldn't bawk about them,
because I didn't really care for many veggies at all
growing up.  So I don't mean to diss the carrots.
I will say that carrots and potatoes cooked together
with a roast was one way I could eat up some carrots.

Finding this week's recipe was like finding a treasure.
Roasted carrots are so yummy!
Roasting almost any veggie is my newest favorite thing.
We roast cabbage, fresh green beans,
asparagus, butternut squash, zucchini,
brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli -
it is so easy to do and the taste is always amazing.

Roasting baby carrots are awesome
and cannot be any easier.
They are SO simple, nutritious and delicious.
I hope you will try.
This recipe fed our family of 6.

2 lbs baby carrots
smidgen of garlic powder
appx. 4 tablespoons olive oil
appx. 3 tablespoons honey
appx. 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
(we used triple that)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Spray baking sheet with non stick spray.
Scatter carrots, right out of the bag
onto baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil
as well as garlic powder, salt and pepper.
Roast in the oven for appx. 20 minutes.
Remove and stir well, then drizzle with
2 tablespoons olive oil, the honey and balsamic vinegar.
Stir well and pop them back into the oven
for about 5 minutes and they are ready to serve.

These carrots are still a little bit crunchy,
are roasted to perfection and are absolutely scrumptious.

I hope you'll make them soon!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Golf Ball Size Goodness

Welcome back to Free Recipe Friday.
Today, we dive into the classic Chocolate Chip Cookie.
But these aren't just any Chocolate Chip Cookies,
they are Randi's Mom's Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Ginormous delicious-ness.
Do you ever have one of those weeks
when you just need to have something sweet?
This has been one of those weeks around here.
Though we don't regularly keep many sweets around,
my sweet, tired, overworked husband
requested 'Randi' cookies to hit the spot.
What are 'Randi' cookies ya say?
Lemme esplain.

During our recent summer family vacation to Tennessee,
my brother-in-law's sister, Randi,
treated lavished us with the most amazing cookies.
They were huge!  And they were yummy.
We were all in cookie heaven.
Turns out, they are easy to make,
require very few ingredients AND they are chocolatey.
What more could you ask for?!

Thanks so much Randi,
for sharing these with the crew in Chattanooga!
And what better souvenir than to have the recipe.

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco)
2 eggs
4 teaspoons good vanilla
3 scant cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
(our salt quantity is increased

from the original recipe)
12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325.

Mix the first five ingredients together
in a medium bowl.
Add in the dry ingredients
and combine just until mixed.
Stir in chocolate chips.

Prepare a baking sheet by
spraying with non stick spray

and/or lining with parchment paper.

Scoop up cookie dough with an

ice-cream scoop and drop the dough 
onto the baking sheet
leaving four inches or so between each.

(we could only fit 6 on ours)
Press each golf ball size dough mound
just a tad - do not press down to spread out.
Just press enough to barely flatten
the tops only.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes

until golden brown around edges.
Remove cookies from oven and drop pan
onto the counter.  Cookies will collapse a bit.
And this is a good thing. 

Let cookies sit for several minutes
to continue cooking.

Remove cookies onto a cooling rack.

Eat immediately or store in a sealed container.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Eatin' Like a Shepherd

I'll never forget the look and smell of
one of my favorite meals growing up.
Shepherd's Pie.
Even though I was never fond of veggies
until my later teen years and young adult life,
when my mom prepared this meal I was in heaven.
Shepherd's Pie was one of those comfort foods
that comforted AND
would trick me into eating a few veggies.

My mom always made her Shepherd's Pie
in a good ol' seasoned black iron skillet.
Oh, if THAT skillet could talk!
I remember she would dollop those
homemade mashed potatoes on top,
in five or six mounds, so we would all know
where our serving/portion was.

Then, as if all of that wasn't enough,
there would be shredded cheese
on each mound of potatoes.
Ohh the cheese.
As a kid, melted cheddar on mashed potatoes
was like dying and going to heaven.
At the time, it seemed to be ingenious!
Of course, we used to call it 'grated' cheese -
because we NEVER, EVER,
bought pre-packaged 'shredded' cheese.
Oh no.
Grating that big ol' block of cheddar
was a weekly chore for one of us girls.

Shepherd's Pie has been around since
the late 1700's when it was known as Cottage Pie.
Same principle pretty much -
leftover meat with potatoes on top and/or bottom,
with variations of meats used through the years.
We've always stuck with ground beef for ours.
If you've never tried this classic dish,
please do so as soon as possible!


(to serve 4-6)
1-1 1/2 lbs. ground beef, cooked and drained

1 batch pre-made mashed potatoes
(for us, 8-10 med. potatoes to make homemade
or 2 envelopes if using instant)

2 cans 'Veg-All', as mom used
(on the canned veggie aisle)
1 med. bag frozen veggies, thawed
(green beans, sweet peas, cubed carrots)

1 can petite diced tomatoes, OPTIONAL
1 can mild rotel tomatoes, if you'd like some spice
(sometimes we do, sometimes we do neither!)

appx. 2 cups shredded cheddar

the spice trinity
salt/pepper/garlic powder

green onions to garnish, optional

your favorite baking dish
(iron skillet, 9x13, or other)


Preheat oven to 350.
In a medium saute pan, brown the ground beef.
Don't forget to season the meat while cooking.
(salt, pepper, garlic powder)
Drain when cooked.
Place cooked beef in a dish sprayed with non-stick spray.

Spread canned or thawed frozen veggies
on top of prepared beef.
Season a bit with salt/pepper
Prepare mashed potatoes.
Homemade, semi-homemade, whatever works for you.
(We do both.  Depends on how hungry we are.)
Either dollop or spread potatoes
over beef and veggie mixture.

Finally, sprinkle shredded cheddar,
as much as desired, on top of potatoes.
Bake in preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes
or until bubbly and golden.