Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Spinach and Bacon Salad with Sweet-and-Sour dressing

This is my favorite salad and salad dressing -- my mom has made it for years, and it really goes well with a wide variety of foods.


fresh spinach
crumbled bacon (amount to taste)
3 or 4 hard cooked eggs, chopped


1 Teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 medium onion, chopped (can use ~2-3 Tbsp dried minced onions)
1/2 teaspoon celery seed (celery salt can work in a pinch)
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup oil
1 & 1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/2 - 2/3 cup sugar

Mix torn spinach leaves, bacon, croutons, eggs in bowl (croutons get soggy if not being used right away).
In blender or a shaker, mix together dressing ingredients. Pour over salad. Serves 6-8 persons or more.
Dressing keeps well in refrigerator for several weeks.
Can make lots of good variations:
Can omit eggs and/or add sliced mushrooms, tomatoes, pecans, dried cranberries, dried cherries, onions, chicken, etc, etc!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chipotle Spinach and Artichoke Dip

I got this recipe from Coconut and Lime and made some adjustments to it to make it spicier and a little was indeed spicy but it turned out pretty well I think!
I also made this a little healthier by using low-fat (not fat-free) cream cheese, mayo, and sour cream. You really couldn't tell the difference at all, and the texture was still quite creamy.

4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
4 oz defrosted frozen artichoke hearts, chopped
3/4 cup (1 box) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 shallots, sliced (or 1.5 Tbsp dried minced onion)
3 chipotle chiles in adobo with 1 teaspoon of the adobe sauce
1 tablespoon key lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a food processor, blend together the cream cheese, sour cream, mayo, onions, lime juice, salt, chipotle, and adobo sauce until very smooth. Stir in spinach, artichokes until just combined. Serve chilled, with pretzel sticks, crackers, carrots, or bread wedges.

Low Fat Black and White Chocolate Bread Pudding

I made this for Christmas Eve desssert and I don't think anyone could guess it was relatively "healthy" fact, everyone kept saying how "rich" it tasted.
The only thing I'll change next time is to do the sauce a different way. I think that you'd be better off with a gourmet ice cream topping chocolate sauce heated up (with some kahlua added in if desired). Forgot to take pics of this, but the regular and white chocolate chips also make it look kind of pretty too!

* 2 tablespoons butter, softened
* 4 cups unsweetened vanilla almond breeze milk (or any vanilla soymilk)
* 9 cups (1/2-inch) cubed Hawaiian bread
* 2 cups sugar
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 4 large egg whites
* 1 large egg
* 1/2 cup choc chunks
* ½ cup white chocolate chips

Sauce: (again, this didn't quite turn out -- it was too runny)
* 1 cup fat free half and half
* 4 oz. white chocolate
* 1/4 cup Kahlua

Preheat oven to 350°.
To prepare pudding, spread 2 tablespoons butter onto bottom and sides of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish (or just melt in the pan and coat evenly...or could cut more calories and just use PAM, but I think the butter adds something). Set aside.
Place bread in a large bowl; pour milk over bread.
Combine 2 cups sugar and next 3 ingredients (through 1 egg) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Gradually the milk to the egg mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Pour over bread pieces. Stir in 1/2 of the chocolate pieces; pour into prepared dish. Pour rest of chocolate over top.
Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until browned and set.
To prepare sauce, heat half and half in a saucepan until simmering, stir in chocolate and kahlua until smooth (again, never got this to work -- better off using a ice cream topping sauce!)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cherry Almond Cookie Bars

This recipe is so easy, and SO delicious -- from a Betty Crocker award winning recipe!

2 pouches (1 lb 1.5 oz each) sugar cookie mix
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 eggs

1 can (21 oz) cherry pie filling

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1. Heat oven to 350°F.
2. Spray bottom and sides of 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray.
3. In large bowl, stir base ingredients until soft dough forms.
4. Press half of dough in bottom of pan.
5. Spread pie filling over dough.
6. Drop remaining dough by teaspoonfuls over filling.
7. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until golden brown*.
8. Cool 10 minutes.
9. In small bowl, stir glaze ingredients until smooth. If necessary, add additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until thin enough to drizzle.
10. Drizzle glaze over warm bars.
For bars, cut into 6 rows by 4 rows. Store covered at room temperature.
*Cooking time varies widely! Start with 30min and check back every couple of may have to place foil around the edges to keep the edges from burning while the middle cooks. Can also use a Baker's Edge pan but might want to consider not using all of cookie batter if so because the bars can get *really* thick!

Cooking Time: 45 to 50
Servings: 24

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Best Cornbread (yes, it's mostly from a box...sigh)

It is always a bit sad when people's favorite part of your meal is the part that basically came from a box. Such is always the case when I make this cornbread so I figure I'll just go ahead and post the recipe so others can at least enjoy the ease and tastiness :-)

Best cornbread
1 box Trader Joe's cornbread mix, made according to directions
1 can creamed corn

Mix creamed corn into prepared mix just until blended.
Bake according to directions, except you may want to keep it in a bit longer, until just turning golden brown on edges and set in the middle.
Yes, it is that easy :-P

Bacon and Thyme Sweet Potatoes

This side dish is from "How stuff works" and it turned out so well...I more or less halved the potatoes and onions and kept the other ingredients the same, so I think going heavy on the bacon and spices is advisable :-)
Oh and I also drizzled a bit of melted butter over this before serving...for a healthier twist, you can omit the butter, don't use the bacon grease, and use butternut squash. I did this this next night and it also turned out great...

3 thick slices applewood-smoked or peppered bacon, diced
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 medium onions, cut into 8 wedges
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4teaspoon black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cook bacon in large, deep skillet until crisp. Remove from heat. Transfer bacon to paper towels; set aside. Add potatoes and onions to drippings in skillet; toss until coated. Stir in salt, thyme and pepper.
2. Spread mixture in single layer in ungreased 15X10-inch jelly-roll pan or shallow roasting pan. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until golden brown and tender. Transfer to serving bowl; sprinkle with bacon.

"Red Chicken"

To help with our friends' Caroline and Stephen's new-baby transition, we brought them some dinner this weekend and I want to post the recipes here because all are easy and all turned out pretty tasty!
First up, my mom's "red chicken" recipe:

Skinless, boneless chicken breasts (~4-5 medium sized)

1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup sherry wine
1/2 cup water
1 medium onion, minced
1 Tbsp worcester sauce
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp brown sugar

Brown chicken and transfer to a roasting pan (corningware casserole, 8x8 pan, etc)
Combine sauce ingredients in saucepan and heat to a simmer.
Pour over chicken and bake ~45min at 325.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Maple Pecan Pie

Next Baking Bites installment:

Maple Pecan Pie
pastry for 9-inch pie crust
1 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 tbsp all purpose flour1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups coarsely chopped roasted and salted pecans

Preheat oven to 350F.
Roll out pie dough to fit a 9-inch pie plate. Transfer dough to pie plate and press lightly into place, crimping edges to fit. (If using a frozen pie crust, thaw first)
In a large bowl, whisk together maple syrup, sugars, eggs, melted butter, flour, vanilla and salt until smooth.
Spread the pecans into the bottom of the pie shell and pour maple syrup mixture over the top. Carefully transfer pie to oven.
Bake for 60 minutes, until puffed and set. (DO NOT OVERBAKE THOUGH! Very quick way to ruin the pie...)
Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
Serves 8-10

Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Bars

I am on a fall-dessert kick from Baking Bites...
First up: Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Bars

Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Bars

1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp butter, softened
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Filling:
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 - 15-oz. can pumpkin puree (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon (or pumpkin pie spice)
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup milk (low fat is fine)

Preheat oven to 350F and lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan (or used the Baker’s Edge).
Begin by making the crust.
In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter, until smooth and fluffy. Working at a low speed, gradually beat in flour and salt until mixture is crumbly. Press evenly into prepared pan and bake for 15-17 minutes.

While the crust bakes, make the filling.
In a large bowl, beat eggs with a whisk until slightly foamy, about 1 minute. Whisk in all the remaining ingredients, except the milk, and beat until smooth. Then whisk in the milk, trying to keep the bubbles in the mixture to a minimum.

When the crust is done, pull it out of the oven and carefully pour the pumpkin pie filling over the still-hot crust. Return the pan to the oven. Bake for an additional 24-28 minutes, until pumpkin filling is set.Cool completely in the pan before slicing and serving.Bars should be stored in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.
Makes 20 bars.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Black and White Chocolate Blondies

Tonight I made a tasty variation on the Snickerdoodle Blondies: I omitted the cinnamon in the sugar mixture and instead mixed in 1cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1cup white chocolate chips. I still sprinkled the top with 2Tbsp sugar and after 20min of baking, I pressed in some additional chips to up the pretty-factor. Note: in the Baker's Edge pan these definitely need 35min to bake so the middle doesn't cave in already.
So they're basically cookie bars but I like them more -- less dense, and a deeper vanilla taste.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Vampire Cupcakes

Vampire Cupcakes
I got this recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Baking Bites. I actually took the easy way out and started with a mix and store-bought icing...I'm sure hers tastes better being homemade, but alas, this pesky dissertation thing keeps getting in the way. The only other tweak was that I supplemented the cherry pie filling with writing-icing gel for the "blood" dribbles.

1 package (18.25 ounces) white cake mix with pudding
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup milk
3 large eggs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 and line muffin pans with 24 muffin liners.
2. Beat above ingredients ~2min or until smooth
3. Fill ~2/3 full with cake mix
4. Bake 15-20 min or until toothpick almost clean
5. Cool completely

1 can cherry pie filling

Puree cherry pie filling in a food processor until fairly smooth. (Very small pieces of cherries are ok.)
Take a cooled cupcake and, using a small pairing knife, cut a cone of cake (1-inch across by 1-inch deep) out of the top.
Trim off the pointy end of the cone, leaving a flat circle of cake. Set aside and repeat this process for all the cupcakes.
Take the cherry filling and spoon about tablespoon or so into each cupcake cavity, filling it almost to the top with filling. Top off with the flat circle of cake you just removed to seal the hole and hold the “blood” filling in place.

Frost with white icing (I used whipped fluffy white)

Dip a wooden toothpick or skewer into some leftover cherry pie filling and poke two fang-holes, about 3/4 inch apart, in the frosting on one side of the cupcake. Dribble a little extra filling from the holes for effect.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Squash and Panko Casserole

Squash and Panko Casserole

4 medium-sized yellow squash, cut into 1/4'' half moons
1 cup chopped onion
1 tsp salt, pepper to taste
1 tsp garlic salt

1/2 medium carrot, grated
1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
4 Tbsp butter, melted

1) Simmer squash, onion, salt and pepper, over medium heat, about 15 minutes or until squash are soft.
2) Stir in 3/4 cup breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup cheese, milk, and grated carrot. Transfer to an oiled baking dish.
3) Top with remaining breadcrumbs and cheese, and drizzle with melted butter.
4) Bake at 350 F in a preheated oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Icebox Cake

Icebox Cake

3 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 (9-ounce) packages chocolate wafer cookies
Unsweetened cocoa (or chocolate shavings)
In a large bowl, beat cream, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form.
On a flat serving plate, arrange 7 cookies side by side in a circle, keeping 1 cookie in the center.
Spread with 1/2 cup whipped cream, making a 7-inch circle. Repeat with remaining cookies and cream, making 11 layers of cookies and ending with a layer of cream (there will be a few cookies left over). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
To serve, dust top lightly with cocoa powder or chocolate shavings.

(I had to use oreos with the middles scraped out...)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Navajo Stew

This is a recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant cookbook, and we've loved it since we had it with our friends in Asheville last winter. It's hearty, healthy, and spicy -- perfect for cool fall and winter nights...

Navajo Stew
2 medium sweet potatoes
2 red or green bell peppers
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 (15 oz.) can of tomatoes
1 Tbsp. canned chipotles in adobo sauce
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 (15 oz.) can of butter beans of black beans, drained
flatbread (tortillas, lavash, or pita)
plain yogurt, sour cream, or Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Lightly oil a baking sheet.
Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes.
Stem and seed the peppers and cut into 1-inch pieces.
Peel the onion and cut it stem end to root end into thin wedges.
In a bowl, toss the vegetables with the garlic, oil, cumin, salt, and pepper.
Spread on the prepared baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 10 minutes. Stir and continue to roast for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender but not mushy.
While the vegetables roast, puree the tomatoes, chipotles, and cilantro in a blender until smooth. Set aside.
When the vegetables are tender, put them into a 2- to 3-quart baking dish, stir in the tomato-cilantro sauce and the beans, and return to the oven until hot, about 10 minutes.
A few minutes before serving, warm the bread in the oven. Serve the stew in bowls topped with yogurt or sour cream, with warm flatbread on the side.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pumpkin Apple Cake

This was a great recipe find from Zoe Bakes. I pretty much followed the recipe as written and was very happy with how it turned out. I used local organic Jonagold apples, but I'm sure any tart, good-for-baking apple would be just great. I happen to really like the taste and consistency of the whole what pastry flour (and the added health boost it provides), but if you don't, you can probably swap out white flour instead. The pumpkin, butter, and sour cream really keep the cake super-moist and the apple layer just seals it all in. A great fall recipe!

Pumpkin Apple Cake

Sauteed apples:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large apples (any combination of your favorite baking apples), peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Streusel topping and Cake (they are made together and then divided)
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter softened
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup sour cream
2 large eggs

To start:
1. Grease an 8-inch springform pan (I am wondering if mine is actually 9in?)
2. Preheat oven to 350°
3. Saute the apples in the butter on medium heat, just until they start to soften. Remove from heat and add the sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
4. In a stand mixer combine the flour, brown sugar and salt. Add the 1/2 cup butter and blend well.
5. Measure out 2/3 cup of the mixture into a separate bowl to make the streusel. Add the 3 tablespoons sugar and pumpkin spices to this separate bowl, blend and set aside.
6. Add the baking soda, pumpkin, sour cream and eggs to the flour mixture left remaining in your mixer. Blend until smooth, about 2 min.
7. Layer the cake batter, then the sauteed apples and finally sprinkle the streusel over the top.
8. Bake, uncovered, for about 1 hour. Allow to cool in the pan and then remove the springform. (Very good served warm with vanilla ice cream!)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Snickerdoodle Blondies

I found this recipe on Dozen Flours blog and had to try it. It's one of those classic-looking recipes, and one that I happened to have all the ingredients for in the house already (plus, how can something not be good with 1 cup of butter + 2 cups brown sugar?!) I think it turned out well, even if I botched the cooking time slightly. I did mine in my Baker's Edge pan and didn't do it long enough. (Overcompensating for the PB chocolate bars being cooked too long I guess!) That being said, they still taste delicious, if a bit gooey. The only changes I made were doing 3tsp/3Tbsp cinnamon/sugar on top (vs. 2 and 2) and I added white chocolate chips to half the batter per Scott's request. I have to say that while I tend to love just the simple bars without added chocolate, others thought it was a good suggestion...

Snickerdoodle Blondies
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 (or 3) tablespoons white sugar
2 (or 3) teaspoons cinnamon
1-2 cups white chocolate chips, if desired

Preheat oven to 350F.
Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
In large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth.
Stir in the flour mixture until well blended. Spread evenly in prepared pan (mixture will be somewhat cookiebatter-ish.)
Combine white sugar and cinnamon in a little bowl. Evenly sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over the top of the batter.
Bake 25-30 (30-35 with Baker's Edge?) minutes or until surface springs back when gently pressed. Cool slightly. While still warm, cut into bars with a sharp knife.
Yields: ~20-25 servings

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Not Quite a Crabcake

This is being posted out-of-season, but I'm trying upload recipes a little each day...
This is a cake I made for several summer birthday gatherings. The baking part is easy, but I won't lie: cutting and icing the claws and the sides of the crab is kind of time-consuming! But usually the reaction is worth it, and the thing actually tastes really good too!

Not Quite a Crabcake

1 package (18.25 ounces) butter recipe yellow cake mix
1 package (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding mix
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1.5 Tbsp vanilla (or vanilla paste)

Vanilla pudding, prepared, colored with yellow food dye

Anything, dyed orange

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 9x13in pan.
2. Combine cake mix, pudding mix, milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. After scraping sides of the bowl, increase mixer speed to medium and blend 1 1/2 to 2 min­utes more-- the batter will look thick but well combined.
3. Bake about 30 min, or until toothpick comes out almost clean.
4. Cut crab shape out of center of pan. With remaining pieces, shape front and rear claws (careful, if you mess up you'll need to make another small cake to get enough for claws!)
5. Hollow out small part of the center of cake (like carving a jack-o-latern), fill with pudding -- this is the crab's "mustard"! (Hint: not telling people it's there can be mildly amusing)
6. Re-assemble top onto cake, put claws together and frost, using frosting-coated pretzel rods for other legs.
7. Refrigerate until ready to eat -- enjoy!

Pumpkin Praline Cake

As Fall gets into full swing, time to start posting my favorite fall recipes...this one is definitely at the top of the list:
Pumpkin Praline Cake (adapted from Betty Crocker)

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 box yellow cake mix (Betty Crocker Super Moist is good)
1 cup (from 15-oz can) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 container (1 lb) cream cheese frosting (Betty Crocker Rich and Creamy)
Caramel topping, if desired
Additional coarsely chopped pecans, if desired

1. Heat oven to 325°F.
2. In 1-quart heavy saucepan, stir together butter, whipping cream and brown sugar.
3. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, just until butter is melted.
4. Pour into 2 (9- or 8-inch) round cake pans; sprinkle evenly with 3/4 cup pecans.
5. In large bowl, beat cake mix, pumpkin, water, oil, eggs and 1 teaspoon of the pumpkin pie spice with electric mixer on low speed until moistened. Beat 2 minutes on medium speed.
6. Carefully spoon batter over pecan mixture in each pan.
7. Bake 43 to 45 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center.
8. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pans to cooling rack.
Cool completely, about 1 hour.

Stir remaining 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice into frosting.

To assemble cake, place 1 layer, praline side up, on serving plate.
Spread with half of the frosting.
Top with second layer, praline side up; spread remaining frosting to edge of layer.
Drizzle with caramel topping and additional pecans.
Store loosely covered in refrigerator.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Peanut butter-crusted chocolate cookie bars

Another recipe made up during my lunch break...preliminary husband-tastings get a thumbs-up!

Peanut butter-crusted chocolate cookie bars

16 Nutter Butter (or peanut butter sandwich) Cookies
3 Tbsp. butter melted

1 box chocolate cake mix
2 large eggs
8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter, melted
1/2 tsp salt
1 bag peanut butter chips or 1 container TJ’s mini-PB cups

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9 x 13-inch pan with cooking spray.
2. Place cookies in food processor container; cover. Process 30 to 45 seconds or until finely ground. Add butter; mix well. Press firmly onto bottom of baking pan.
3. Place the cake mix, eggs, salt, and melted butter in a large mixing bowl.
4. Blend with electric mixer on low speed until ingredients are moistened, 1 minute.
5. Add PB cups/chips and stir or blend on low another 30 seconds, just to incorporate.
6. Turn the dough into the pan, and spread it evenly over crust with fingers or a rubber spatula.
7. Place the pan in the oven and bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until the bars are firm but still soft.
8. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for at least 20 minutes, then slice and serve.

If I make them again: I might add another Tbsp melted butter to the cookie mix, as it was a touch dry.

Update: After a day of being cut, these things dried out and really weren't that great. Next time I won't bake til the toothpick is clean (really I think 20-25min should be enough; I ended up doing it for 35min in a Baker's Edge pan), and I think I would swirl some Better 'n Peanut Butter lightly through as well for some more PB gooeyness.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cherry Polenta Cake

This recipe is one I made up over lunch, sort of based off of a few other recipes. I won't be making it again quite like this (Scott actually called it my "disgusting cake") but the rest of us eating it thought it at least showed promise, given a few tweaks. I'll post the recipe as I made it here, but with the suggested changes noted to the side.

Cherry layer
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2cups cherries (I used frozen...I think this was 90% of the problem. Using smaller, tarter, *fresh* cherries would likely have fared far better.)

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup instant grits
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk (the cake was a little dense time I'd either mix in a bit more milk to moisten it and/or perhaps 1/4 cup egg white to fluff it up some)
1/2 sour cream
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat to 350 degrees F.
Butter a 9-inch cake pan, line bottom with parchment paper and brush the paper with butter (or spraying with Pam works too)
Cherry layer: Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high, and continue to cook, without stirring, until the mixture becomes an amber caramel, about 5 minutes. Pour the caramel into the prepared pan and set aside to cool.
Drop 1 cup of cherries into prepared pan
Set aside while you make the cake batter.

Cake: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, grits, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, eggs, sugar and vanilla extract until smooth. Stir in flour mixture, mixing just until no streaks of flour remain visible in the batter. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle remaining cherries over the top of the cake. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed. Cool cake for at least an hour before removing from pan and serving. Let cool completely before slicing if you do not intend to serve the cake while slightly warm.

Other notes:
1. I think you could also do this with other fruit and have it be better possibly...apples, peaches would do well, as would small grapes and maybe raspberries (with white chocolate perhaps?) too...
2. I also think a drizzle of a light glaze might be good, since it's not an overly sweet cake. Maybe 1 cup powdered sugar + 1 tsp almond extract (or vanilla depending what fruit you're using) + a few tbsp milk, mixed up and drizzled over top.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Caramel Peach Upside Down Cake

This is a recipe that I found from the food network and doctored up a bit per the user's reviews. I think it turned out well -- not overly sweet, and with a nice, rustic texture thanks to the addition of the grits in place of some of the flour. I thought it was especially delicious served warm and topped with a little bit of ice cream or cool whip.

Caramel peaches:
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tsp allspice, optional
1 tablespoon water
3 large ripe peaches (about 1 pound)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup *instant* grits
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
Butter a 9-inch cake pan, line bottom with parchment paper and brush the paper with butter (or spraying with Pam works too)

Caramel peaches: Combine the sugar, corn syrup, allspice and water in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high, and continue to cook, without stirring, until the mixture becomes an amber caramel, about 5 minutes. Pour the caramel into the prepared pan and set aside to cool.
Halve and pit the peaches, but leave their skins on. Cut each half into 3 wedges.
Arrange the wedges in concentric circles in the pan.
Set aside while you make the cake batter.

Whisk the flour, grits, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
Slowly mix the butter, vanilla and sugar in a large bowl with a hand-held electric mixer.
Increase the speed to high, and continue beating until the butter is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs 1 at time.
While mixing at a low speed, add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Increase the speed to medium and mix briefly to make a smooth batter. Pour the batter over the peaches and smooth over.
Bake the cake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack, about 20 minutes.
Run a knife around the edge of the pan to release the cake. Carefully invert the cake onto a serving plate and remove the parchment paper. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.

Cinnamon Snacking Cake

This is one of my favorite cakes from when I was a little kid. Every Sunday we would cookout with our big group of family friends at the pool and after dinner it was time for desserts galore! This cake made frequent appearances throughout the summer, and having had a debilitating sweet tooth from a very young age, I remember rolling myself and my puffed-out bathing-suited belly home after each feast.
I love this cake because it is simple, seriously addictive, and I usually have all of the ingredients on-hand. Be sure not to over-beat the mixture, and be careful not to overbake either.

Cinnamon Snacking Cake

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup water
1/4 lb. butter
1 tsp. vanilla (vanilla paste looks and tastes really good!)
2 tsp. baking powder

1 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
3Tbsp cinnamon

1. Beat eggs, add sugar, and flour. While mixing, melt butter in water. Bring to boil. Add to beaten mixture and mix well. Add vanilla and baking power. Place in greased and floured 13 X 9 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes.
2. When done, poke holes in top of cake with a large serving fork. Melt stick of butter with cinnamon sugar and pour mixture over hot cake, allowing to seep into holes. If holes show through too much (or just for some added decadence), mix another 1/2 stick of butter with 1/4 cup cinnamon sugar and pour over top again.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cilantro coconut rice

A super-easy but very good side dish (I made it to go with the Peanut Butter Coconut Chicken (last post):

Cilantro coconut rice:
1 bag microwaveble brown rice (well, ~2 cups any cooked rice works)

3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut

1 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp ginger
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp garlic salt

1 cup packed fresh cilantro sprigs (I didn't have any and had to use 3 frozen cilantro cubes (got them at Trader Joes)...good...but fresh would have been better)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Spread coconut in a shallow baking pan and toast in oven, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely.

3. Sautee onions in skillet, add other ginger, garlic (and cilantro if not fresh)

4. Cook/microwave rice, and stir into onion mixture.

5. Just before serving stir in toasted coconut (and cilantro if using the fresh stuff).

Peanut Butter Coconut Chicken

This was dinner tonight, along with Cilantro-coconut rice (below). I sort of just made it up and was worried about it as I looked uneasily at the clumpy sauce consistency prior to cooking. However, Scott deemed it an addition to the "one of his favorite meals" list, and I have to say I thought it was pretty tasty too! (And naturally, I forgot to take pictures of any of it...we were too hungry and it disappeard too fast!)

Peanut butter coconut chicken

2 large frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic salt
a good pinch of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon good spicy curry powder (as hot as you prefer)
a dash of ginger
1/3 cup Better 'n Peanut butter ( (you can use regular PB too, but if you do I'd add a tbsp of brown sugar to this as well, as the Better 'n PB product is a touch sweeter than the regular stuff)

3/4cup flaked coconut (sweetened)
2-3 Tbsp butter

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Stir above together spices, and melt PB in the microwave ~25sec (don't burn it). Stir into spices.
3. Coat chicken with mixture as best as you can (it won't spread evenly but don't worry about'll thin and cook evenly in the oven)
4. Coat chicken in coconut, drizzle 1-2 Tbsp of melted butter over each breast (you don't have to add this but it does make it quite a bit tastier)
5. Bake ~20-35 min (really depends on size of chicken breast, so watch carefully and take out when no pink is left inside)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Clouds and Cake

Welcome to my blog, which is really just an online recipe box I'm creating for myself because I got tired of dealing with all of the other websites out there that offer to do the same. Enjoy and feel free to look around, but I don't pretend to make this at all fancy...much like most of things you'll find on's just for fun!