Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Peppermint Mocha Cookies

I have to admit I'm a coffee addict. I actually keep my coffee pot on my night stand so that I can roll over in the morning and instantly make coffee, although I mostly keep it in my room because my dad and I do not agree on what coffee should taste like.
In any case I love coffee and anything with coffee in it. It being christmas and all I decided I needed to make something festive that also had a punch of caffeine so I did what all artists do I copied an idea. So here it is a Starbucks tradition turned cookie.

Peppermint Mocha Cookies
1 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups AP flour
3/4 cup Cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbs. instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 Tbs. hot tap water
3 dozen unwrapped peppermint kisses

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy
Beat in egg and then vanilla and espresso
stir cocoa, flour and baking powder until combined and then with the mixer on low slowly add dry ingredients.
Once the dough comes together cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
Preheat oven to 350.
Once the dough has chilled dish it out in 1 tsp portions onto a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Bake for 15-18 minutes
Remove the cookies from the oven and immediately top with the kisses. 
lift the parchment paper off the sheet tray and transfer the cookies to a cooling wrack.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Peppermint Bark

Every year for Christmas my mom and I put together baskets of food to take to our neighbors and friends. We usually do things like party mix, fudge, cheese straws, and peppermint bark. I've always made the peppermint bark and without fail the night before we were supposed to deliver baskets I would be cranking out batches of bark and wanting to pull my hair out. It seemed that no matter how careful I was the dark chocolate and white chocolate would always separate when I tried to cut the final product. I think I've finally found the problem and the solution. I'm to lazy to use a double boiler, I hate waiting for the water to boil and waiting for the chocolate to melt, all while trying not to get water in the  chocolate. I had started to just melt the chocolate on the stove and I think that was the problem. The chocolate wasn't getting tempered correctly. Another problem I've run into with this recipe is sometimes I'll try to melt the white chocolate and it seizes up and looks like cookie dough, this typically means the white chocolate isn't fresh enough. The only option is to toss it and start again.
Last year when I was away at college I made peppermint bark for my secret santa and we didn't have any saucepans so I just melted the chocolate in the microwave and magically it didn't separate. So here's my fool proof method for melting chocolate.

Peppermint bark
1 bag dark chocolate chips
1 bag white chocolate chips
crushed candy cane or starlight mints

Place the dark chocolate chips in a glass microwave safe bowl and microwave for 45 seconds, stir and microwave for 30 seconds, stir microwave for 15 seconds, stir microwave for 10 seconds. If chocolate still has some small unmelted bits microwave for another 10 seconds and stir.
Pour the dark chocolate onto a parchment or wax paper lined cookie sheet and pop it into the freezer while you repeat the same microwaving steps with the white chocolate.
By the time the white chocolate is melted the dark should be set so remove it from the freezer. Using a rubber spatula dollop the white chocolate in four large drops over the dark chocolate and spread, don't move it around to much or the bottom layer will start to melt and you'll get marbling. Top immediately with the crushed candy.

Monday, November 26, 2012

This is not your mama's pimento cheese.

Last Sunday while filling my paper plate to its maximum capacity at a church covered dish supper I was trying to figure out how to load my plate with veg-all casserole, fried chicken, and cheesy potatoes without anything touching. I was also thinking about Southern food. In the South there are certain recipes that vary greatly from household to household. Recipes are passed down from generation to generation and often cause disputes among families that go like this: Mom: "I want to make my mom's potato salad" Dad: "No I'm making My mom's potato salad. I don't like your mom's" When I think about dishes like this three things instantly come to mind, chicken salad, deviled eggs, and pimento cheese.
I know chicken salad isn't really a strictly southern thing but in the south chicken salad is a big deal. It is served at every funeral, wedding, birthday party, and shower. When it comes to chicken salad for me there are a lot of factors going on. Is the chicken shredded, chopped, or cubed? Is the dressing sweet, mustard based, or simple with just a little mayo? Whats in it? celery? pickles? herbs? There are a lot of variations. For me its all about finely shredded sweet chicken salad with finely diced celery and pickles.
As far as deviled eggs go they may seem pretty self explanatory. You know egg yolk, mayo, pickles, and mustard. However the amount of mustard and pickles changes everything. Also there are huge texture differences in some peoples deviled eggs. Some people like the filling wet, others like it stiff like frosting.  Personally I will eat any deviled egg that is set in front of me, unless it has dijon mustard in it. Blech!
Finally pimento cheese. Again, this seems self explanatory grated cheddar, pimentos, and mayo. However after sampling a fair amount of pimento cheese I've noticed a lot of differences. Some people use very thick  pre shredded cheese and it makes for something more like a salad. Some people just add mayo. I do it really differently. I grew up eating my grandmothers pimento cheese and basically wen't in the opposite direction. I like mine spicy, with finely grated extra sharp cheddar, a scant amount of mayo, and a spreadable texture. This is my pimento cheese.

Pimento cheese with a kick

14 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup of Dukes mayo (yes it has to be Dukes)
1 4oz jar of pimentos
2 clove of garlic finely minced
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Shred the cheese in your food processor using the proper attachment, if you don't own a food processor with the proper attachment take a brief moment to cry and brace for yourself for a grueling workout on the box grater.
Transfer the shredded cheese to a bowl and fold in the mayo with a rubber spatula, followed by the pimentos. Finally fold in the pepper and garlic. By folding each ingredient separately it gives the pimento cheese the right texture.
Allow the mixture to chill in the fridge for at lest 30 minutes.
Spread on ritz crackers, make teach sandwiches like my grandmother did, or my personal favorite spread on bread and grill on a panini grill.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sorry for my lack of posting this week but I've been on a bit of roller coaster ride. Last Sunday a newspaper in Florida called me for a phone interview for a reporter position. Monday they called and offered me a job. Wednesday I left to go and check out the town and the paper to see if I liked the area. After going back and forth between excitement at the thought of breaking out on my own and fear at the thought of leaving my family and loved ones and moving 12 hours away I had decided I would take the job. I came home Friday and began packing the next day. I also started trying to reach the editor of the paper to try and tell him I would accept the job, but he wasn't answering, which made me nervous. In all of our communication thus far he had always answered his phone. I finally got a hold of him yesterday only to have him tell me that the corporate office had decided they couldn't afford another writer and so I found myself back at square one, with a lot of stuff to unpack and a long list of people to tell that I wasn't moving. Needless to say I didn't find the time to bake something up for you all. I promise I will make it up to you soon.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Frozen pumpkin cheesecake

For once my family has actually gotten a jump on Thanksgiving. Typically the day before Thanksgiving is a mad rush to find recipes, buy ingredients, and menu plan, which is probably why every year we end up with enough food to feed a small country. We always get carried away with the appetizers and then by the time we sit down, at 8:30 mind you, no one is really all that hungry. This year we had a pre-Thanksgiving conference several weeks ago and drew up a menu. We limited it to three appetizers, classic dishes, two extra sides, and three desserts. All of this careful planning is held together by one golden rule "No changes without substitution" i.e. no adding dishes at the last minute. Luckily, this recipe made the cut.

A few months ago my aunt made an awesome mocha ice cream pie and when I saw pumpkin ice cream in the grocery store I figured I could replicate it with a different flavor profile and a few tweaks. Her recipe called for marshmallow fluff originally but freezing the pie caused little chunks of fluff to turn into marshmallow  pebbles. So I decided to skip the fluff and opted for Cool Whip, it helps keep the pie light and creamy. The cream cheese mixed with the ice cream really does make this easy pie taste like cheesecake and the ginger snap crust is a nod to the Cheesecake Factory's pumpkin cheesecake. I'm really proud of this recipe and can't wait to serve it to my family, hopefully you'll do the same.

Frozen pumpkin cheesecake

Gingersnap crust
1 stick unsalted butter
2 cups gingersnap cookies

Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl.
Place cookies in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the you get a fine crumb.
Drizzle the melted butter into the food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand.
Press into a 9 inch spring form pan and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

1 quart sized tub of pumpkin ice cream (I used Eddy's)
1 tub of cool whip
1 8oz. block of cream cheese

Place the ice cream and cool whip on the counter to thaw until they are soft and pliable.
Place the cream cheese on a microwave safe plate and microwave for 1 minute. Place the cream cheese into a large bowl and stir until smooth. Whisk in the thawed cool whip until lump free. Then whisk in the ice cream.
Pour the mixture into the prepared crust and freeze for 4-6 hours.
To release the pie let it set on the counter for a minute or two and then run a thin knife around the edge. If you just try and spring the pan the pie will crack.
Top with fresh whipped cream, crumbled ginger snaps, and caramel sauce.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Nutella French Toast

Sorry for the delayed blogging. Life got a little crazy this week. I was short on ingredients for what I originally wanted to make so I had to resort to a back up plan. However, that's probably fitting because that is how this recipe came to be in the first place.
I served as an arts and entertainment editor for my school newspaper for a year and a half and in my last year there I started a recipe column. It sort of took the place of this blog for a little while. I was trying to achieve the same goal with it that I am now with this blog, all original recipes all the time, but with a college flair. A.k.a easy cheap recipes. I was digging through the cabinets in my apartment one night looking for things that I could piece together to create a recipe for my quickly approaching dead line and I found several things that almost everyone has lying around: nutella, bread, and eggs. French toast seemed like and obvious solution and so this brain child was born. It's super easy, can be made for one or many, and most of all is
tasty. The other thing about it is that it's impressive. If you top it with whipped cream and berries and serve as breakfast in bed to your sweet heart they'll be sure to feel spoiled.

Nutella French Toast

8 slices of bred (wheat or white)
4 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 Tbs. vanilla
1/2 Tbs. cinnamon

Take two slices of bread and spread each one with a layer of Nutella, how much you use is really up to you.  Make a sandwich with your two pieces of bread repeat with the rest of the bread, set aside.
Whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. Dip both sides of your sandwich into the egg mixtures and place in a lightly buttered pan over medium head until golden brown on both sides.
Sever with a drizzle of chocolate syrup or fresh whipped cream and sliced strawberries.

Monday, October 29, 2012

When life throws rocks at you make rocky road

Let me apologize in advance for the poor photo quality. Hurricane Sandy is currently taking a stroll through my neighborhood and her presences doesn't make for the best natural light. So far we've been really lucky, there's no flooding in my neighborhood, we still have power, and I have an excuse to stay in and bake.
 As long as my power stays on throughout this storm I'll be in the kitchen concocting new things to share with you all. I can't wait!

Even though the photos are sub par I promise the recipe is top notch. How could butter, marshmallows, and nutella not lead to something good. This recipe was inspired by The Pioneer Woman's nutella crispy treats. I had gone into the kitchen to prepare that recipe but I decided to spin off on my own and take a rocky road approach. So I used chocolate cereal instead of regular ant topped the treats with chopped almonds and mini marshmallows. I like the slated almonds because it gives you that salty sweet affect. While whipping these up a few more adaptions popped into my head so stayed tuned for more cereal treats.

Rocky Road Puffed Rice Treats

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
10.5 bag of mini marshmallows
2 spoonfuls of nutella
6 cups of chocolate puffed rice cereal
mini marshmallows
chopped roasted salted almonds


Measure cereal into a large glass bowl
In a medium sauce pan melt the butter and then stir in the mini marshmallows, stir until melted. Add in the nutella and stir until combined
pour marshmallow mixture over cereal and fold together with a rubber spatula that has been rubbed with butter or sprayed with no stick spray.
Once evenly coated pour the mixture into a buttered 9x13 casserole dish, top with mini marshmallows and chopped almonds. Allow the treats to set for 30-60 minutes.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pumpkin fever.

Whenever last September rolls around and the days start to get crisp something seems to sweep over the internet like a zombie plague. The pumpkin fever. This sickness can be summed up by this simple yet insightful meme.

I must admit I'm a victim of the pumpkin fever myself. Most of my recipe testing has centered around pumpkin or pumpkin based products in the last few weeks. So brace yourself and make sure you're stocked up on can's of Libby's and jars of pumpkin pie spice. The fever doesn't usually pass until after Thanksgiving, when it's replaced by more zombie like activity, mall roaming.

The idea for this weeks recipe occurred to me while I was participating in the new national pass time of women, wasting time on Pinterest. I kept seeing recipes for pumpkin French toast casseroles. A little light bulb switched on in my head and I realized that if I made bread pudding with a loaf of Pepridge Farm pumpkin swirl bread it would up the pumpkin flavor. Here's the recipe that resulted

Pumpkin Spice Bread Pudding

1 loaf of Pepridge Farm pumpkin spice swirl bread
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla
15 oz can pumpkin
1/4 cup of nuts

Preheat oven to 350.

cube the loaf of bread and place in the oven on a cookie sheet to toast for 10-15 minutes.

While the bread is toasting whisk together the eggs, half and half , then add the sugars, spices, and vanilla. Once the mixture is combined whisk in the pumpkin until smooth.

Transfer the toasted bread to a 9 by 13 casserole dish. Lay the bread out in an even layer and pour the liquid over it and sprinkle the top with nuts. Bake for 30-45 minutes depending on how wet you like your bread pudding..

Serve warm. Top with caramel sauce, whipped cream, or ice cream.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The pie that didn't win the day

As some of you may know I live in the middle of nowhere. Let me illustrate this more clearly. My neck of the woods just got a Walmart two years ago. We are slow up the uptake to say the least. So it's not surprising that this summer was the first time that our community had a farmers market. Despite the fact that we are surrounded by rolling fields and an ocean and a bay full of seafood eating local is just catching on here.
 So I was super excited to go and check out everything the local vendors had to offer. My family has been lucky enough to enjoy everything from onion bagels, to bacon, to oysters for the market. This weekend I got a chance to participate in my first cooking competition at the farmers market.
 A few weeks ago I signed up for the fall pie contest. I spent countless hours brooding over how to be crush the competition with a homemade pie that incorporated fresh local ingredients. I figured most people would probably opt for apple pie so I decided to do something completely different butternut squash.
The resulting pie was the result of a lot of brain storming and recipe testing. unfortunately I didn't win but since they only announced the winner my mom keeps telling people that I came in second. She knows how to make me feel better. So here is the recipe for the pie that didn't win the day.

NOTE:The pie pictured behind mine, pie number 9, was the contest winner.

  Butternut Squash Crunch Pie 
Single pie crust recipe of your choice pre-baked 

 Squash filling 
2 cups of roasted butternut squash 
1 cup heavy cream 
1/2 cup milk 
4 eggs 
2/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed 
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
 pinch of salt
 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 

 Crunch Topping 
1/2 cup brown sugar 
1/2 cup flour 
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice 
pinch of salt 
 2 Tbsp. cubed butter 
1/2 cup chopped pecans 

 Preheat oven to 375. 
 Mix together the cream, milk, eggs, sugar, spices, salt, and vanilla. Add the cooked squash to the other ingredients and whisk to combine. Use a hand blender or food processor to give the mixture a nice smooth texture. 
 To make the crumb topping combine the brown sugar, flour, spices, and salt and cut in the butter using either a pastry cutter or a fork. Once the mixture forms a crumb the texture of wet sand stir in the chopped pecans. 
 Pour the squash mixture into the pre-baked pie crust and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes sprinkle to crumb topping over the pie filling and bake for an additional 45 minutes.

Back in black

Hello all! I officially checked out for a blog hiatus over a year ago due to a busy school schedule, work load, social life and life in general. However I am now officially a college graduate and like many of my fellow graduates I have returned to my childhood home, a part time job that has nothing to do with my major, and a somewhat fruitless job hunt. Aside from a two month stint writing for a local newspaper my writing opportunities have been limited. Circumstances being as they are, I realized a few weeks ago that I need a creative outlet. I need to throw myself into something that I love, this blog seemed to be the best answer. Some good has come out of my time off however. Over the past year I have been building up a portfolio of original recipes. So things will be changing around here. I'm operating under the same name but the rules have changed a bit. In the past this blog has been a mix of 75% other peoples recipes and 25% my own recipes. Now that I have a lot of time on my hands and another year of cooking under my belt I'm striving for mix of original and family recipes. Now that the new rules have been established here's what's been new with me. I spent my senior year of college living in a suite with old friends and new friends
I graduated with a B.A. in Communications with a concentration in Journalism.
I spent a week in California with my aunt where I happily dined on Pink's hot dogs, Phillipe French dip, amazing Japanese food, and two Mario Batali meals. I was in food heaven.
After all of the excitement of summer I've settled myself into a comfortable routine of work, flooding the job market with my resume and crying over my B.A. ok maybe not the last one, but the rest is true. I'm happy to add blogging back to the list of things I'm doing. I can't wait to share what I have in store for you guys. Stay tuned for: pimento cheese, pie, trifle, sandwiches, and lots more.