Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Day all Cylinders Fired

Is it the actual aging process,
exhaustion or craziness from raising kids
that makes you lose your mind?
My mind is like an old PC most days
that is churning and churning until it can
pull up the information needed.
Once in a while though, just once in a while,
it clicks.  Ideas come.  I can recall a word
I'm trying to say or actually remember
my children's names.
When these days come, you take heed my friend.
Take heed.
Our family recently celebrated Memorial Day,
as most all of America did by cooking out.
The hubby and I, along with the girls,
were off of work and out of school.
We were so excited that we planned a full menu.
The grill was getting fired up and
a few new recipes were about to be devoured.
As with most other times when we crank up the grill,
my mountain man makes a plea for
any and everything grill-able
to be brought forth so that
the heavenly perfume of charcoal grilling
can overtake every morsel of food we have.
The man loves grilled food.
Or is it just cow flesh.
No, maybe it's just meat in general.
And sometimes maybe, just maybe,
all the cylinders in my brain fire
and with a little thought and planning,
we are able to pre-cook several meals
worth of meat in one grilling!  It's a win, win!

On that fine Memorial Day,
we cooked steak to consume for that meal
and then threw on some hot dogs
and burgers for another meal.
Unbeknownst to me, the next day would be
National Hamburger Day! So perfectly fitting.
And voila, we pull out the hamburgers
and mom is a hero.
I know you've heard it a million times
and HALF a million times from me,
but these REALLY ARE
the best homemade burgers
we've ever had!

But first, a little sauce.

I came across a whiskey sauce recipe
and with it the hamburger patty instructions.
The sauce is what originally
caught my attention, but it also said
to put one shot of the whiskey into
the meat before making the patties.
Ok. Why not.
Maybe that's part of the secret?!
I'm not sure.  Prepare the patties however you like,
but this sauce, oh. my. goodness. Yum!
Whiskey Sauce.  Eee-gasp...yes, it's a whiskey sauce.
And you'll want to slather it on everything. 
If you're a fan of the Jack Daniels line at Chili's - here's your ticket.
This sauce would be great on steaks and chicken
not just burgers.

1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup good whiskey
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup catsup (or less)
1 tablespoon steak sauce (we used A-1)
1 tablespoon Sriracha hot sauce
(IF you're brave, we used 2 teaspoons)
3 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons bacon grease
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
pinch of cayenne pepper
(Makes about 2 cups)

Combine all ingredients in a medium size saucepan. 
Simmer until slightly thickened 
over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. 
Stirring frequently with a wire whisk.
Store in a jar or sealed container
and refrigerate until ready to drink use.

Who knew a sauce could throw something
over the top. Who knew.
Cook you a burger, add some bacon, grilled onions
and drizzle this sauce over it - and, BAM!


Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorable Muffins

Yum to the tum!
These are so easy and such an impressive
throw together snack/dessert.
With basic pantry ingredients
(except for the mini chocolate chips)
you could make them anytime.
The best part?!? No icing required!
They are so very moist and do not need
one single thing more!
The recipe makes about 30 cupcakes
and would be fantabulous amongst
your Memorial Day Weekend spread.

Now back to the mini chocolate chip thing.
I've noticed they are kind of hard to find...
what's up with that?!?!
How will this world continue to revolve
if they take away mini chocolate chips!????

For the muffin/cupcakes:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups water
2/3 cups vegetable oil
2 Tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract
For the filling: 
 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350.
Line muffin pan with cupcake liners.
Set aside.

For the filling:
In a medium size bowl, combine
softened cream cheese, sugar, egg and salt.
Mix until smooth creamy.
Stir in chocolate chips (mini work best).
Set aside.

For the muffin/cupcakes:
In a separate bowl,
stir together the dry ingredients and
add in water, oil, vinegar and vanilla.
Mix together using a whisk or hand mixer
for about 3 minutes.
Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full with batter.
Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the filling
in the center of each.
Bake 20-25 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let rest
about 5 minutes before removing
from muffin pan.
If needed, refill pan with more liners
and repeat process for another batch.
Let muffins cool until room temperature
and place in an air-tight container
or place in ziploc bags.
Refrigerate any leftovers.
Yield: about 30 cupcakes

These are so chocolatey and yummy
and they aren't covered in all of that
ooey gooey icing either, making them
twice as healthy....right?!?


...Now, let's give a BIG Memorial Day salute
to all of those that have served and continue
to serve to protect our freedom!

Our deepest thanks!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Tried and True

Let's start with the color red.
One of my favorite colors.
And then there's chocolate.
Also, one of my favorite things.
Throw in white fluffy icing
and, again, you have another one
of my favorite things.
Put them all together and you have
the classic, tried and true,
Red Velvet Cake.

Just like the cake this cute little girl
(my niece, Courtney) is eating -
from our wedding back in 1985!
She was gobbling UP that
Red Velvet Cake! Mmm.
Even though it's a classic,
there are still varying degrees
of this cake and icing.
So be-ware. :)
A genuine Red Velvet Cake
should have red food coloring
AND cocoa. 
There's not but a few spoonfuls
of cocoa in the recipe,
but it's just enough to give it
a richness with some chocolate undertones.
(that's some swanky food talk right there)
I will try not to judge you
if your cake is not as deep red as ours
or if it's lacking in cocoa.

Just kidding?!
But seriously. :)
This recipe actually came off the
packaging from a bottle of red food coloring
wayyy back in the day.

- - Cake - -
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoons butter flavoring
1 1/2 oz. bottle of red food coloring
(with 1-2 bottles worth of water)
3 heaping Tablespoons of cocoa
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda
- - White 'Flour' Frosting - -
6 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
2 cups shortening
2 cups granulated sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon butter flavoring

Preheat oven to 350.
Cream shortening and sugar
until well combined and fluffy.
Add in the eggs and flavorings,
mix until pale yellow.
In a separate bowl combine cocoa and
food coloring - then refill the bottle
1-2 times with water
to make a smooth paste.
Add paste to first mixture.
Combine flour and salt and alternately add
to the batter along with the buttermilk.
Beginning and ending with flour.
In a separate small bowl,
combine vinegar and soda -
a bit of a foam up/fiz will happen -
add this to batter and mix well.

Pour batter in two 8/9 inch cake pans
that have been greased and floured
or sprayed well with non stick spray.

Bake appx 30 minutes
checking for done-ness - when the sides
of the cakes barely begin to shrink
from the sides of the pans
they are done.
 Remove cakes from the oven
and immediately cover with wax paper
(not paper towels), this will keep
the cakes from losing their moisture.
Let them sit for several minutes
before removing onto a wire rack,
keeping the wax paper on the cake -
after the cake is inverted,
place another sheet of wax paper
on the top of the cake -
making the cake sandwiched
between two wax paper sheets.
Confused yet?!
Now let cakes cool or place in the freezer
while you prepare the frosting.

Combine milk, flour and salt
in a microwavable bowl
stirring frequently
until very thick.
Cover with saran wrap
and place directly on the mixture
to avoid creating a skin
and let it cool completely.

While this mixture cools,
(either in the fridge or out on the counter),
place the shortening and granulated sugar
in a mixing bowl and mix for 5-10 minutes
 until the mixture looses most of it's
grittiness. It seriously takes a long time.
Then add flavorings. Mix well.

When cooked mixture has cooled,
scrape it into shortening mixture
and mix very well.
This is traditionally called
"flour" frosting.
It is delicious and I love, love it
way more than cream cheese
for frosting for this cake.
If you've always had cream cheese with yours,
please give this old fashioned traditional one
a try.  It is most yummy.
You will have a little bit of icing leftover -
because I have already doubled it for you.
I got most tired of skimping to get this cake iced,
and have been doubling it for years.
Use the leftover icing to spread
between some chocolate chip cookies
and your kids will think you
have been to the Great American Cookie Co.
Enough said.
(I may have forced myself to use ALL of it)

To ice the cakes -
you can ice your cakes as is
to make a two layer cake
or slice each cake in half horizontally
to make a spectacular looking
layer cake.

So sorry this post is forever and ever long.
But I promise you this cake is worth
every single letter of the alphabet used here!

That's what I'm talking about people.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Nothing into Something

Have you ever turned trash
into treasure?!?
Isn't it a fabulous feeling?!
My husband would say we are
on the verge of
a hoarders intervention,
from all this junk is what I'm sayin'.

Do you know what the greatest food treasure
in the land is???
Banana Bread.  Oh yes it is.  Y.U.M.
It's amazing that you can take
nasty o' bananas that need to be trashed
(because they are having a fruit fly party),
and turn them into something magical.
Who would have thought?

Isn't this a pretty miraculous feat?

We usually under cook ours a bit
so the top caves in just a little.
It's cooked, just not as firm as the rest.
Gummy is yummy in our book!

Now, the fruit flies, oh, we can get rid of those -
(bonus recipe below)
but, do not throw those sad aging bananas away.

Our recipe makes "exactically"
1 large loaf pan and 2 small ones.
One for now, the other two to give
your starving college kids
or to throw in the freezer
and treat yourself later
when you realize they are still in there.
Or does that just happen to me?!

This Banana Bread recipe came out of
The Longview News Journal
many, many moons ago and
written by Barbara Richardson, whom my mom loved.
This recipe soon replaced the tried and true one
that my mother had faithfully made.
Mom's recipe was a bit simpler
and only required TWO bananas.
Barbara Richardson's requires the whole bunch!
(approximately 5)
Nice and banana-ey, just the way I like it.

3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups mashed bananas, over ripe
3/4 cup milk
5 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
6 teaspoons baking powder, yes 6
1 1/2 cups chopped nuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350.
In a medium size bowl, or in your mixing bowl,
cream butter and sugar until pale yellow and fluffy.
Add eggs and vanilla
while scraping down the sides of your bowl
until well combined.
Stir in bananas and milk.
It will then look gross, like curdled milk.
Hang in there and just keep going.

In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients.
Slowly add dry ingredients
to the mixing bowl and mix
until incorporated.
Stir in nuts, if using.
Divide equally into greased and floured pans.
(We actually just used non stick spray)

Bake for approximately 1 hour
for the largest loaf,
30-40 minutes for mini loaves.
Check doneness using an ice pick
or toothpicks.
The middle should be mostly done
or completely done if that's
how you roll.

After removing from the oven,
let the pans sit for a few minutes
before removing the loaves onto a wire rack.
I always cover them with a sheet of wax paper
when they come out of the oven
to keep them from drying out.
I actually place the loaves
into large ziploc baggies
while they are still quite warm
to retain their moisture as well.
Muy, muy, muy.

Whether yours has a gummy middle or not,
I hope you and your crew lap it up.
Our favorite way to eat Banana Bread
is to slice a chunk off and toast it.
Top it off with butter and a spread of cream cheese!


Now, to deal with those pesky fruit flies.

Apple Cider Vinegar
Dish Soap
Small Drinking Glass

Pour apple cider vinegar into a small glass
to about 1 inch deep.
Drizzle about 4-5 drops of
dish soap into the glass.
Slowly with a spoon or your finger,
stir the two together without
sloshing it up the sides or making bubbles.
Set this mixture right in your kitchen window
and wait for the party to begin.
The fruit flies will smell the fruity-ness
and be drawn to get closer and closer
and then, whoops, they drown.
Hate that.

I don't know how old this recipe is or
where it came from, but it works
amazingly well.
It only takes a few days to round 'em up
and before you know it there will be
more fruit flies at the bottom of the glass
than you knew existed in your kitchen.
I will refrain from posting the
'after' photo. :)

Have fun!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cinco de Yummo

We love Mexican food so much,
our family celebrates by
eating it almost weekly, all year long.
Since this weekend is Cinco de Mayo.
I thought we would celebrate a bit early
and start it off with Pico de Gallo.

Pico de Gallo, also known as Salsa Fresca,
is a staple food or condiment
in Mexican cuisine.
Ingredients most often already on hand
if you are preparing anything
in the realm of Mexican food.
Onions, tomatoes (we used Roma's),
a Jalapeno, Cilantro and a Lime or two.
Easy and delicious.

Have you ever attempted it before?!
I've never really cared for
Pico de Gallo in restaurants -
until I tasted Chuy's Salsa Fresca.
I realized this stuff CAN be delicious
without being horridly hot
as most restaurants recipes usually are.

Our version has about the same level of heat
as Chuy's does - which is much less spicy
than most restaurants out there,
and better flavor, so dig in!

We enjoyed this along with some
amazing Avocado Chicken Enchiladas.

-- 6-8 Roma Tomatoes, diced - peel on
-- 1 Medium Onion, diced
-- 1 large Jalapeno, seeded and diced
(I repeat, we did not use the seeds --
if you like hot, add seeds or switch to Serrano's)
-- 1/2 of a bunch of Cilantro, chopped
-- Juice of 2 Limes
-- Salt/Pepper
-- Garlic Powder, optional

Yield: about 4-5 cups

In a medium size bowl
combine all of your diced and chopped ingredients.
Pour on lime juice and add salt/pepper to taste.
Stir well and refrigerate.
You can serve this immediately
but it definitely gets better with age.
Make it the night before your Cinco de Mayo
celebration or whenever you see fit.
Stir well before serving.
But, get ready for your guests
to be gathered around the Gallo!

What are YOUR plans for Cindo de Mayo?!?