Tuesday, August 7, 2012

No-Bake Nutella Cheesecakes

This dessert involves nutella (it had me there, frankly) and cheesecake and you don't have to turn on your oven.

You can make it "in a jiff."  That's southern for it's easy.

One spoonful and you will re-evaluate your position in the universe.

My family inhaled these.  The two older children were buzzing around me like vultures when I was making it, hoping to lick the spatula or bowl or anything that had come into contact with this luscious, divine, heavenly stuff. 

I got the recipe here:  No-Bake Nutella Cheesecake recipe

Her photography and design is incredible.  Makes my blog look very Laura Ingalls Wilder...but I did always have a soft spot for her (see this.)

Have a sweet week!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Squash "Fries"

For crying out loud.  I could have eaten the entire plate of these.

There's an abundance of squash in the summertime.  You may run out of ways to serve it to your family.  Kids don't always eagerly gobble up squash that's been sauteed or steamed or boiled. 

These "fries," however, will disappear faster than lightning.

The keys to making these are (1) your little breading station "assembly line" and (2) Panko bread crumbs.  May I extol the virtues of these Japanese bread crumbs?  You can buy them anywhere now.  They make anything they coat crispy and delicious.

I would be inclined to bake these, which is the healthiest way to prepare them.  On this night, though, Curt already had the Fry Daddy fired up for some grouper he had recently caught, so I had him toss in my little squash project.  (Seriously, if you find a good man who can feed the family on what he grabs from the ocean or shoots in a field, marry him on the spot.)  All that to say, fry or bake away, whatever you are inclined to do.

I don't have a recipe to give you...just general steps.  This is FOR REAL easy.

First, the squash prep:
Wash 4-5 yellow squash (more or less, depending on how many mouths you are feeding). Trim ends and cut in half lengthwise.  Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard.  Cut the squash into fry-like shapes.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. 

Then, your assembly line:
Line up three bowls. 
1.  In the first, place 1/4 to 1/2 cup of flour (or cornstarch). Season with salt and pepper. 
2.  In the 2nd, beat one egg.
3.  In the third, place about a cup of Panko bread crumbs.  Season this with salt and pepper, too.

                                  The breading "station" moves smoothly if you order it from left to right. Have an empty plate at end to gather breaded squash.
                                      This same process works for breading most anything else - chicken fingers, green beans, etc.  The kids can help with this!

It's crucial to season in all steps of the process.  Squash is bland, like potatoes - it lends itself well in this dish but needs some salt!

Also, if you run out of an ingredient in a bowl, do not fret, sweet one.  Just add some more. This isn't exact.

First, dip the "fries" into the flour mixture.  Shake off excess, and dip into the egg.  Then roll in the Panko crumbs.  Now you are ready to fry! You can use a deep fryer or fry on the stove with 2 or 3" of oil.  Or, you could bake these in the oven, say 400 degrees until brown and crispy. 

Cook until golden and serve with ketchup or ranch dressing.  Thank me later.

Oh and this would be great with zucchini as well!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tomato Cornbread Salad

Ahhhh, the summer tomato.

Slice and eat with some salt and pepper. Sublime. Or make the finest BLT.  Or a tomato pie.

Or this Tomato Cornbread Salad.  Folks, it's divine.

Every summer, I make this and experiment with ingredients and amounts.  You do the same! If you don't like peppers, but love radishes, use them!  If you dislike basil but love parsley, make the substitution.  It's a salad - it doesn't have to be exact.

Tomato Cornbread Salad

1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 package (8.5 ounces) Jiffy corn muffin mix
3 ears corn, shucked
8 ounces fresh green beans (any kind)
1-1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 or 2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped (I used both for color)
3 or 4 scallions, sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
3 or 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Whisk the dressing ingredients together and let stand or store in refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

Prepare corn muffin mix in 8" square baking dish according to package directions.  Cool completely.  (You  can do like me and bake it the night before to serve with dinner, but only if a small amount of it will be eaten.  I like to go "heavy on the veggies" anyway with this salad, so if you don't have as much cornbread, it's OK.)

Cut cooled cornbread into 1" cubes and place in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Put in a 400 degree oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, stirring once halfway through, until lightly toasted.  Cool.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Add corn and cook 5 minutes.  Add beans and cook 3 minutes longer or until crisp-tender.  Using tongs, remove corn and rinse under cold running water.  Drain beans and rinse under cold water.  Cut corn off cob.

In big bowl, combine all except for the cornbread.  Add cornbread and toss gently.  Serve immediately or chill.  Even better the second day!  And aren't the colors so pretty?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Perfect Parmesan Roasted-Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Yummy, restaurant-style mashed potatoes are seriously easy to make.  I made them last night with an entire head of garlic.  OK, you can scale back, but the process and result is the same:  delicious mashed potatoes that your family will love.

Start by roasting the garlic.  This is not (I repeat, NOT) a difficult task.  Simply slice the top off a head of fresh garlic.

Place the garlic head on some foil on a sheet pan.  Take the "top" off and pour on a little olive oil and some salt and pepper.  Put the "top" back on and wrap the foil around the garlic.

Roast the garlic in a preheated 350 degree oven for about an hour.  In a few minutes, you'll smell its goodness permeating the entire house.  Cue kids salivating and husband smooching you.

Let the garlic head cool, top on.  When you are ready to use it, simply squeeze the soft, caramel-y cloves into a bowl. 

You'll be amazed at how gooey and weird they are in this stage.  As you can see above, roasting the garlic literally transforms it into something completely different from fresh garlic in texture and flavor. The cloves just "mush" out of the bulb like mayonnaise.

Now you are ready to use whatever amount of roasted garlic you'd like in your mashed potatoes.  Store the extra in the fridge in an airtight container and use in another dish this week.  Pasta or garlic bread, anyone?

How easy was that?  Your labor involved a knife cut, pouring some oil, and a few squeezes of the stuff into a bowl. 

Now, on to the main event.

Perfect Parmesan Roasted-Garlic Mashed Potatoes

This makes 4-6 servings.

1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes or red potatoes (I used a combination this time; use whatever you have.)
1/2 to 1 cup milk (I've also used half and half or some cream to make the dish extra special.)
1/2 to 1 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup butter (Use more if you like butter...as if anyone doesn't.)
roasted garlic, amount to your preference
salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Wash then cube the potatoes.  I typically leave the skins on - not only is it more nutritious, but I also like the way it tastes and looks in the end. And it saves you the work of peeling.  Win-win-win.  Place potatoes in a big pot of cold water with a liberal amount of salt.  Boil until they are fork-tender. 

While potatoes are boiling, heat the milk and butter in a small pan.  Place this, the Parmesan, and garlic in the bowl of your mixer.

Drain potatoes and place BACK into the hot pan in which you boiled them for a few seconds.  This will help "steam off" any liquid remaining that may make the potatoes mushy.

Add potatoes to the mixer bowl and mix until desired consistency - chunkier or smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

This isn't an exact science. You can experiment with the milk, butter, cheese, and garlic amounts. Sour cream, wasabi powder, ranch dressing... these are options for add-ins, too.

Serve warm, preferably with a hearty slice of meat loaf and a nice green salad.  :) 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Most mothers strive to make nutritious, fun lunches for their children.  This can be an enjoyable challenge in the summertime because you are not limited to what you can pack into their lunch boxes.

This happy little meal is a spin-off on the favorite "pigs in a blanket."

It couldn't be easier, people. The kids could probably make these themselves.  Get them to help assemble - they'll love it.  You need three ingredients:

crescent rolls
mozzarella cheese sticks

Roll out the crescent roll dough and lay a few slices of pepperoni on top.  Cut a mozzarella cheese stick in half and lay at the widest end.  Roll up toward the point and bake according to the directions on the can of crescent rolls.

You could serve this with marinara or pizza sauce - or not, as we did.

Add some fruit and a glass of milk and you've got yourself a healthy lunch that your kiddos won't mind devouring.  Victory. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mother Rene's Sugar Cookies

My maternal grandmother's name is Irene and as long as I can remember, we've always called her "Mother Rene" ("Rene" as in "green").  This is her sugar cookie recipe.  They are light-as-air wafers of goodness. If you like a denser, teacake-like texture, look elsewhere.

They are a snap to make!

Flattening them before baking makes them even crisper.  I think the cream of tartar, vegetable oil, and powdered sugar are somewhat unusual in a sugar cookie recipe - but the end product will literally melt in your mouth.

Mother Rene's Sugar Cookies

Makes 3-5 dozen, depending on size
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/8 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream butter with paddle attachment of a mixer.  Gradually add sugars, then oil, eggs, and extract.  Combine the dry ingredients and slowly add to the butter mixture. Cover and chill dough 2 hours.  Shape into 1" balls and place 3" apart on a cookie sheet.  Flatten each cookie slightly with the flat bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar.  Bake at 375 degrees for 5-8 minutes.  Do NOT over bake - take them out of the oven before they begin to brown.

Tips:  The thinner the cookie (i.e., the more you flatten it out), the crisper it will be in the end.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Coca-Cola Cake

Does anyone need any introduction to this?  Do you need to be told how moist, chocolate-y, and delicious it is? 

I didn't think so.

Coca-Cola Cake

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 sticks butter, divided
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa power, divided

1-1/2 cups coca-cola, divided
1/2 cup buttermilk (**please see my note below in italics about buttermilk!)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Mix the first five ingredients in a heat-proof bowl.  While you're at it, go ahead and preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13" x 9" pan. (I'm sold on any recipe that has me "grease a 13 x 9 pan," if we're just telling the truth.)

In a saucepan over medium high heat stir 2 sticks butter, 1/4 cup cocoa, 1 cup coca-cola, and buttermilk together until boiling. 

**By the way, if you don't happen to have buttermilk just sitting around in your fridge (um, who does?) then you can easily do what I do:  measure out ALMOST the amount of buttermilk you need in regular milk, then top it off (a couple tablespoons - you can just eyeball it) with regular vinegar.  Let it sit for a few seconds and VOILA! You have buttermilk...or at least an equivalent.  I do this pretty much every, single time a recipe calls for buttermilk and it always turns out just fine. 

Remove saucepan from heat and slowly add to the flour mix.  Whisk until smooth and combined.  Then add eggs and vanilla extract.  Beat.

Pour batter into pan.  Bake for about 30 minutes.

While cake is baking, mix 1 stick butter, 1/4 cup cocoa, and 1/2 cup coca-cola in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Once that boils, remove and slowly stir in powdered sugar and pecans. 

When cake is done and out of oven (toothpick should come out clean), pour this
warm glaze right over the top of the hot cake!

Cake should cool a bit, but can be served warm or room temperature. 

Prepare for the oooohs and ahhhhhhs as your guests or family delight in this.  This is super to take to family picnics/reunions/etc. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Strawberry Custard Pie

Curt's request this week: Can you make a strawberry pie?

Why, SURE, man o' my dreams.

For the record, making pie crust from scratch is downright easy. One of the four (4!) ingredients is ice water, for crying out loud. Rolling out the dough can make a bit of a countertop mess - but who doesn't have paper towels and the ability to wipe up something? Heck, get the husbandator to clean up.

You made the pie, after all.

There are thousands of pie crust recipes out there, and I've used a few, but tried Ina Garten's today. Making it in the food processor is a BREEZE. Here's the link: Barefoot Contessa Perfect Pie Crust Recipe

By the way, Ina's recipe makes two 9-inch crusts, only one of which you'll need for this pie. Pop the other in the freezer and you've got homemade crust ready whenever you need it.

Do exactly as Obi -- I mean, Ina says. 

You can get fancy with your crimping technique. I prefer the rustic approach. Simple.

Don't forget to prick your pie crust with a fork before baking. Otherwise, it puffs up in odd places in the oven. Ewwwww.

OK, so you've made the crust, now onto the pie. This pie has a creamy, custard filling (no Jello pudding here, folks) and a sweet glaze that you, once again, whip up using ingredients (water! sugar!) that we all have on hand.

Now you can buy a comparable pie in the store. Your man may be pleased. But I can guarantee you that his smile will be wider if you make this yourself. Come on.

Strawberry Custard Pie
(from Southern Living Annual Recipes 2000)

Here's a link to a printable version: Strawberry Custard Pie (printable)

1-1/3 cup sugar, divided
7 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
1 baked 9-inch pastry shell (see recipe in post above)
1 cup water, divided
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon red food coloring
6 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
garnishes:  sweetened whipped cream, strawberries

Combine 2/3 cup sugar, 4 tablespoons cornstarch, and salt in a saucepan; stir in milk.  Bring to a boil
over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.

Whisk milk mixture gradually into egg yolks until blended. Return mixture to saucepan.
Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, 1 minute or until thickened.  Remove from heat.
Stir in butter and vanilla. Spoon hot filling into pastry shell. Stir together remaining 2/3 cup sugar,
remaining 3 tablespoons cornstarch, and 2 tablespoons water.
Bring remaining water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Whisk in sugar mixture.  Cook, whisking
constantly, 2 to 3 minutes or until thickened and clear.  Remove from heat.
Stir in lemon juice and food coloring; cool. Fold strawberries into syrup mixture.  Spoon over custard
mixture; Chill 4 hours. Garnish, if desired.

Ironically, I got a little peeved when I opened the refrigerator door and found I had no room in which to store my freshly-made pie. 

A stocked fridge is a BLESSING. It means we have food to eat. It means we don't have to go out for supper. The fact that it's cramped and sticky and needs organizing is secondary. Thank you, Lord, for your bounty. And for refrigeration, for that matter.

So the lesson today, folks: Make your own pie crust. And be grateful.

When you see me out at the grocer, complaining to high heaven, with store-bought pastry in my shopping cart, remind me of this post.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I've been away for a while. . .

. . . taking care of little man and reveling in mommy-hood. 

Every mother-to-be should be warned that she will fall so in-love with her baby while giving him baths that she may want to eat him.

I'm also sure that infants grow at the speed of light - so on a Tuesday, they have begun sitting up in their crib and the next morning, they are doing algebra.

Cecily has compiled a list of words to help Perry with his spelling when he approaches (according to her heading) the 3-5 year age range.  She may be the coolest bonus daughter EVER.

This is some impressive penmanship, I might add.

Happy spring to all!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Layered Peppermint Cheesecake Cake and Expectation

Another overblown blog title. I promise there will be a killer recipe, with photos, at the end. 

SOOOOOOOO anywhoo, there are these women - Hollywood starlet-types - who profess to LOVING being with child so much that they would just be tickled to death to be pregnant all the time.  You've seen them interviewed.  I've heard them quoted before. 

What medications are they abusing?

Now these nine months have gone exceptionally well. God is good. But there's no way I would prefer to be in this state 24/7/365.  Your ankles swell to the size of Sequoias.  What used to be easy tasks (putting on socks, sitting down, standing up, moving in general, etc.) become Olympic events.

Two things make it all better:  pedicures and bubble baths.  They force me to be STILL and WITH my feet up, which helps greatly with the before-mentioned Redwood-Forest issue.

For readers concerned that Baby Boy Downey would have no where to lay his little head - we've progressed on the nursery.  And Curt has laid down hardwood floors in this "wing" of the house.  ("Wing" brings to mind images of a Gothic manse a la some Bronte novel, one in which the plucky heroine stumbles upon an abandoned suite of rooms, festooned with grime and gilt edges and prickles of ghosts. . . but I digress, horribly and predictably.)

But, as you can see, we're/I'm still not done.  But at least BBD won't be sleeping in the bathtub.

Oh! Wasn't there supposed to be something about a Layered Peppermint Cheesecake Cake in this post?  Well, folks, feast your eyes on this, which is actually MUCH simpler to execute than you would think.  Click on the link below for the recipe. 


Their finished product is snazzier than mine, but I'm just humble enough to show you what our homespun kitchen produced.  It tasted good.

Merry Christmas to all!  May we remember that the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place is because of our overwhelming joy that our SAVIOR, Christ the King, was born one night in Bethlehem, the same Savior about whom prophecies had spoken for centuries, the same Savior who died for our sins years later. . . the same Savior who gives abundant life, in this world and the next, to those who know Him!


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