Posted in In The Kitchen, On The Reading Chair

Milk and Cookies- A Review

Hands down one of my new favorite cookbooks. I know you’re thinking, “Why do I need a whole book for cookies?” Well, this isn’t JUST cookies. You’ll find recipes for cookies, brownies, biscotti, and a few other baked goods. Now, the cookies themselves are AMAZING! Most of the cookies are built off a base dough (vanilla, chocolate, oatmeal, peanut butter) and then you further customize each cookie. Measurements are in standard measurement and also in weight, so whichever you like to use is there. You’ll find very basic cookies (chocolate chip- though they’ll blow your mind), fancy cookies, unusual cookies, and unexpected cookies. Believe me when I say this is a fabulous cookbook! I have made most of the items in the book and every single one has turned out perfectly every single time.

Posted in In The Kitchen

Brown Sugar Peach Cobbler

Living in Georgia, there is one thing we have plenty of- peaches! Peach season comes and you end up with more peaches that you know what to do with. Of course, when they are firm and pretty, you eat them like an apple. But when they get ripe, you can’t just let them go bad! So, you can jar them, jelly them, or bake them. Here is my (fairly famous) brown sugar peach cobbler.

Ingredients:

– 1 stick of butter

– 1 cup granulated sugar

– 1 cup all purpose flour

– 1 t baking powder

– 0.5 t salt

– 1 cup milk

– 3 T brown sugar

– 1 t vanilla extract (or Fiori di Sicilia)

– 3 ripe peaches (You can really cook them anywhere from off the tree to overly ripe. It’ll come out fine either way.)

You’ll need an 8″ round or square baking dish. Place the whole stick of butter in your dish and put in the oven at 350. You’ll be melting the butter in the dish while you whip up everything else.

Cut up your peaches. Remove the pits. I leave the skin on, but you can remove it if you’re feeling fussy. In a bowl, mix 3 T brown sugar with the peaches. Add 1 t of vanilla extract. Set this bowl to the side.

Grab another bowl. Add 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of granulated sugar, 1 t baking powder, and half a t of salt and whisk that up. Add 1 cup of milk and whisk it up. Your batter will be on the thin side. If it seems thick, add a bit more milk.

By now, your butter is all nice and melted. Carefully remove it from the oven. You’ll need to carefully add to the butter because it’ll burn like a devil if you happen to splash. Add the batter to the center of the butter first. Don’t mix it. See the picture above. Just pour the batter into the center of the melted butter.

Pour the peaches into the very center of the batter. Do not mix it up. Resist the urge. The batter will bake up around the peaches and the butter will brown up on the outside all nice and pretty. You mix it, you’ll mess it all up. So don’t mix.

Bake at 350 for what seems like far too long (about 45 minutes) until it is pretty and golden on the top and doesn’t slosh around when you move it. Believe me, everyone in your house will be begging you to just let them at it, make them all wait. You may have to stand guard at the oven door.

Once it is pretty and brown (or you can fend the hoards off no longer), remove it from the oven. Let it cool!

To serve, serve warm. You can add a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream if you’re feeling super fancy or just happen to like your cobbler a’ la mode. I’d say this serves 6, but more realistically, it serves 4. If 4 of the 6 are kids, yes, it serves 6. Don’t double the recipe. If you need more, you’ll need to bake 2. It just doesn’t come out so nice and pretty if you try to put it in a bigger pan. I’ve tried. I once baked 6 cobbler in one night because you really can’t double the recipe.

Now, if you aren’t in peach country and have tons of fresh peaches around for you to use, you can use canned peaches. It isn’t quite as good, but still more delicious than anything your mother-in-law ever cooked. Instead of mixing the peaches and brown sugar, you just make sure you buy a can of peaches in heavy syrup and pour the whole can into the center of the cobbler. You can also use other fruit. Blackberries make a lovely cobbler, too!

Posted in In The Kitchen, With The Kids

Professor Party (includes recipes!)

The Professor had his first birthday party yesterday. I know, I got out the calendar to make sure he was really one! It didn’t seem like it was time for this just yet. The Pastor assures me he was, indeed, born in June and is, in fact, a year old. He doesn’t seem like he’s a year old. I threw together a little shin-dig for his birthday. Old man themed, of course. The above is the invitation. (I took pictures, edited them on PicMonkey, uploaded them to Shutterfly, and then had them printed at the local drug store. Cost me all of $4 for all his invitations.) Cute, huh?

I read on this blog about turning Frappuccino bottles into glass milk bottles. (Removing the labels and date stamps.) It was pretty easy to get them nice and pretty. I found the paper straw on Amazon. I found the candy cigarettes at a small gas station in south Mississippi when we were coming back from a week at the beach. I made the little chalkboards myself. I painted my red, white, and blue party jugs to match. You can sort of see the stamp on the paper in one of the pictures above. I had it made for Ransom by Asspocket Productions. If you don’t have your own book stamp or family book stamp, you need to contact Asspocket and let Stacey make you one. I plan to get one for each child in addition to the family one we already have from her.

I made a few burlap bows. I was hoping to find burlap ribbon, which does exist, but the store I went to did not have. Instead, I bought 3 yards of burlap and cut it into 3″-4″ strips. I then used those strips to make the bows. This bow is one strip (3″ x 3 yards) with a small piece cut to tie the center. I made bigger bows for the door and mailbox. (Our neighbor decided to have a yard sale the same day as the party. They marked their mailbox with balloons. We had more than one yard saler coming up our driveway only to realize ours was not the yard sale. Fun times.)

Now, for the recipes. I decided I wanted something different than cupcakes. I’m a horrible cake decorator. Perhaps I’ll take a class one day and get better at that, but currently I’m the person who makes great tasting cakes that look terrible. I usually stick to cupcakes for that reason. I decided the party theme leant itself to something a little different. I opted to make mini bundt cakes! I got two different mini bundt pans. One from Target (made by Nordic Ware), that didn’t have deep holes and the pan really, really browned the little cakes. The other from Joann’s (made by Wilton) that made the perfect  mini bundt with a hole almost completely through. The cakes are Blue Ribbon PoundCake with Chocolate Ganache. They were tasty.

Blue Ribbon Pound Cake

2 cups butter

6 eggs

1 t baking powder

1 cup milk

1 t nutmeg

3 cups sugar

4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 t salt

1 t vanilla or lemon extract

I figure you know what to do with that. Mine made about 2.5 dozen mini-bundt cakes per batch. I used vanilla, but next time I make this, I’ll be using Fiori de Sicilia.

Chocolate Ganache

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

3-4 bars of good dark chocolate

The trick to great ganache is great chocolate. If you use cheap chocolate, you’ll get ugh ganache. Use great chocolate for impressive ganache. I used SweetRiot 70% chocolate bars.  Chop the chocolate into smallish pieces, heat the cream in a pan, stir in the chocolate small amounts at a time. NEVER STOP STIRRING! You cannot multi-task while making ganache. You have to give it all your attention for the few minutes it takes to make. Funnel it into a squirt bottle and then use the squirt bottle to squirt it onto your cakes, cookies, whatever.

I got cute little mustache cookie cutters and made these adorable little cookies.I also found a sugar, chocolate, and coffee bean grinder at Trader Joe’s to top these simple chocolate cookies. I edited a recipe that I had for chocolate cookie dough with less baking powder to create less lift so the shape would stay in these cookies. I am usually a tea cake kind of girl, but I went with a classic chocolate cookie for this one.

Chocolate Cookie Cutter Cookies

2.25 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/2 t baking powder

1/4 t salt

1 cup butter

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 T vanilla extract

1 small bar of dark chocolate, shaved

You can shave the chocolate with a cheese grate or you can put it in your blender or food processor and chop the devil out of it. Either way works. You just don’t want chunks of it in your cookies. Just shavings. You know how to mix this. Add the cocoa as your first dry ingredient. Roll them out of some flour or cocoa and use your cookie cutters to cut them out. If you want the sugar to really stick, take the white of one egg, beat it, then brush it over the top of each cookie before sprinkling with sugar. (And sugar before baking.)

Posted in In The Kitchen

Orangeade

I know you know all about lemonade. We make that here, too. And I know you know limeade. We have that on occasion. The real hit around my house is orangeade. My kids love it. I love it. The Pastor loves it. Guests love it (for the most part). And it is super duper simple to make. Basically, it is just like making lemonade, only with oranges. Nothing ground breaking or revolutionary here.

– 4 medium oranges

– 1 cup of sugar

– water

– a gallon pitcher or jug of some sort

Put a couple cups of water on to boil. (I have friends who just microwave water in a pyrex measuring cup. I use my tea kettle on the stove because I have no microwave.)

Pour the cup of sugar into your pitcher. Cut 4 oranges in half. Squeeze the oranges into the pitcher. Throw at least half of the orange “skins” into the pitcher. (If you skip this, for some reason, your orangeade tastes a little weak. Same for any other citrus-ade.)

Pour the hot water over the orange juice, orange skin, and sugar. Stir until the sugar is melted. Add cold water to fill the pitcher.

That is it. And you’ll love it. You should also try with grapefruits. It is fabulous! (3 medium grapefruits or 2 huge grapefruits)

Posted in In The Kitchen

Southern Squash

Yellow squash is a staple food here in the south. It grows crazy easily. (If you’re looking for a vegetable to plant that kids will enjoy tending to, plant squash. You’ll get results for sure. Unless you live in Greenland. I’m not sure squash would grow all the way up there.) There are lots of ways to cook yellow squash. You can fry it. You can cover it in cornmeal and bake it. I prefer to cook it this way.

Get yourself some yellow squash and some shallots. (If you are unclear on what a shallot is and you don’t care to try it OR your local grocer doesn’t have them- you can use any onion for this recipe.) I usually cook about one squash per person, 1/2 for kids. So, on this day, I had 6 adults and 9 kids, so I cooked 10 squash. As for the amount of shallots, I use 1 per 3 squash. So, on this day that I cooked 10 squash, I added 3 shallots.

Step 1: Slice your shallots and your squash.

Step 2: Add a few T of olive oil to a pan. (The size of your pan depends on the amount of squash you’re cooking. If you’re cookin’ for less than 4 people, a skillet is big enough. If, like me, you’re cookin’ for the masses, you need a big ole pot.) Once the oil gets warm, add the shallots. Stir. Cook until the shallots are softish. Add the squash and sautee with the shallots for a few minutes. Add salt to taste. (Pepper if you’re feelin’ it.)

Step 3: Add just enough water to cover the squash. Once the water comes to a boil, lower the heat, cover it, and let it simmer.

Step 4: Well, the simmering was really the end. You just simmer it until everything else is done cooking. Or, until the squash is your preferred consistency. I’ll tell ya, the southern way is to cook it to mush. That’s it. Sometimes an older Southern lady will tell you to “cook it down.” That just means cook it until you’re ready for dinner. You can “cook it down” in 15 minutes. Or you can “cook it down” in 45.

It doesn’t look pretty, but everyone in your house will love it. Kids will even eat it. (Shocking, I know!) Enjoy!

Posted in In The Kitchen

Pecan Spice Cupcakes with Rum Icing

I decided to make these cupcakes for the Faith Methodist Church Christmas party. Let me tell you, they are yummy! I think these are my new favorite cupcakes.

For the cupcakes:

2 and 3/4 cups AP flour

1 and 1/2 t baking soda

1 and 1/2 t baking powder

1 T ground cinnamon

2 t ground nutmeg

1 t ground ginger

1 t salt

1 and 1/2 sticks butter

1 and 1/2 cups packed brown sugar (I used light)

3 large eggs

1 T vanilla

1 and 1/2 cups of buttermilk (buttermilk for cupcakes makes them so light and fluffy!)

1 cup roughly chopped pecans

In a bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. I use a whisk to make sure they are well mixed. Set this bowl aside.

Beat butter until it is light and fluffy. Add brown sugar to the butter and mix until smooth. Once butter and brown sugar are well mixed, add one egg at a time. Once eggs are well mixed, add about half the flour mixture. Mix until well combined.  Add vanilla and buttermilk- mix until well combined. Add the rest of the flour mixture. Mix until well combined. Add in the pecans and mix them in.

Spoon your batter into cupcake cups. (Will make between 2 and 3 dozen cupcakes, depending on how full you make your cups.) Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, rotating halfway through.

Now the rum icing! Yep, I said rum! Yum! So, I was sitting there thinking, “What kind of icing will go with pecan spice cupcakes?” My usual cream cheese icing has a bit of a citrus taste, which I didn’t want. I come up with the idea to make cream cheese rum icing. It turned out so yummy! Here’s what you need:

3 blocks of cream cheese

3 sticks of butter

powdered sugar (amount is up to you- probably between half a cup and 2 cups)

rum (use what you’ve got. Don’t have any? This Tattoo rum by Captain Morgan is on the sweet side- perfect for desserts.)

You can scale this recipe down. I find that 2 blocks/2 sticks is not quite enough for 2 dozen generously iced cupcakes, so I use 3/3 and have a bit of icing left over. (Which The Pastor eats with graham crackers for a midnight snack.) If you don’t like a lot of icing on your cupcakes, 2 blocks/2sticks will be enough.

Set out the cream cheese and the butter while you’re working on your cupcakes. They’ll be room temperature by the time you get around to making the icing.

Mix the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add about 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. Add a few T of rum. Blend well. Taste. (I keep plenty of spoons on hand when making icing because I taste quite often.) Add more powdered sugar as you see fit. (Some folks like super sweet icing. Others like not overly sweet icing. I fall in between. I use about a cup of powdered sugar.) Add more rum to taste. I used about 1/4 cup of rum. I didn’t want it too rummy. But you may want it more rum tasting, so add more if you like!

Once your icing is mixed to your liking, spoon the icing into a gallon size freezer bag and place in the fridge. When your cupcakes have completely cooled and you’re ready to ice, knead the bag of icing a bit, cut off one corner of the bag, squirt icing onto cupcakes. Top the icing with a pecan. Eat and enjoy!

(You can also drizzle a little rum over each cupcake before serving. Adds a little extra zip to it!)