Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I hope all my readers have a safe and happy holiday season!

Merry Christmas from The Gaited Baker y'all!!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap - Black and White Biscotti

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012

This was my entry into The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!

In order to participate, the blogger has to use a recipe they haven't posted on their blog before.  They could've made it a hundred times but as long as it wasn't on the blog, it was fair game.  Yeah, I have some cookies that I haven't posted yet but I wanted to do something new and different.  A brand new recipe!  Yay!  I do cookies all the time but I rarely make biscotti, which technically fall under the umbrella term of "cookie".  I've only made them a couple of times before and they have always turned out great.  And they are especially good cookies to ship, which I had to do with three people.  Biscotti in Italian literally means "twice baked".  Twice baking the biscotti dries it out which makes it a great cookie to dip into your morning coffee (or in my case, mug after mug of milk).  I'll be posting pictures of the cookies I received along with links to their blogs in a future post.

So why black and white?  Well, like I said.  I wanted to do something a little different.  Making cookies is pretty simple and I wanted to do something not-so-simple yet memorable.  I had thougth and thought about what to make.  Do I simply alter an existing recipe which I know works or do I think out of the box?  When I came across this recipe on the KAF website, I knew that was the recipe.   The world was suddenly right.  Birds chirped on my fingertips while deer and rabbits hopped around me.  Okay, well, maybe not quite that dramatic ;)  But I knew that this was the recipe I was meant to post.  Yes, that recipe was created just for me (completely disregard the fact that this recipe was developed back in 2009 and lots of other people have made it). 

I hope that the folks who received these cookies all enjoyed them.  And if any of you out there decide to take on this recipe, I hope you enjoy them too :) 

(My family and friends know I am a huge Seinfeld fan, so every time I mentioned these cookies, my husband and best friend would say, "Look to the cookie.")

Black and White Biscotti
adapted slightly from King Arthur Flour

6 Tbsp. Butter, salted
2/3 c. Sugar
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
2 tsp. Vanilla
2 Eggs
2 c. All-Purpose Flour
2 Tbsp. Cocoa Powder
1/4 c. Mini Chocolate Chips
1 Packet of Sugar in the Raw (or 1 Tbsp.)

1.  Preheat oven to 350.
2.  Grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.
3.  In a large bowl, combine the butter, sugar, baking powder, and vanilla.
4.  Add in the eggs (it may look a little funky - that's okay.).
5.  Stir in the flour and mix well.  The dough will be sticky.
6.  Divide the dough in half, placing one half on the cookie sheet and leaving the other in the bowl.
7.  Now for the the first fun part - you need to spread the dough into a log of about 14" x 2 1/2".  You'll need to wet your fingers with cold water in order to help this process otherwise you'll end up with sticky fingers (which is all well and good if you're five-years-old.)
8.  Put the pan into the freezer.
9.  In the remaining dough, mix in the cocoa powder.
10. Fold in the mini chocolate chips.
11. Remove the vanilla dough from the freezer and repeat Step 7 (the second fun part!).
12. Gently press the Sugar in the Raw onto the biscotti dough.
13. Bake for 25 minutes.
14. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 to 25 minutes.  (Or however long - it doesn't really matter.)
15. Using a serrated knife, slice the biscotti to about 3/4" thick.
16. Stand the biscotti on the pan and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes.  They'll feel a little soft in the center but will continue to dry out as they cool.
17. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Apple Cinnamon Muffins/Bread

Apple and cinnamon?  Yum.  "Yes, please" and, "Please, sir, may I have another?"

I'm sure you recall the Blueberry Muffin Bread recipe where I had too much batter and ended up having to use the remaining batter to make bread.  Well, I did the same thing here only I really don't know how it happened.  Unlike with the Blueberry Bread, I followed the directions, using white whole wheat flour and all-purpose instead of substituting white whole wheat for regular all-purpose.  This recipe is SUPPOSED to yield 12 happy muffins.... yeah, not for me.  I don't understand why or how it happened but I'm just glad it did!  To think that I now have the knowledge to turn muffins into bread.... OH THE POWER!!!!!  Oh, did I say that out loud?  Do forgive me.  I'm not that power-hungry... usually.

When baking with apples, you have to be careful about which type of apple you choose.  A Red Delicious, for instance, is great for eating but terrible for baking.  They disintegrate.   So much you won't even be able to tell there's apple in it.  My favorites?  Granny Smith and Braeburn, all of which are readily available in your local grocery store.  When I bake pies, I enjoy using a mixture of both those apples.  The Granny Smith is very tart and the Braeburn helps to cut through that tartness.  Honeycrisps are my favorite for eating around the holidays (because that's usually the only time you can find them) and are the apples most commonly used in apple cider.  See, you can learn new things on baking blogs!  For a quick overview of apples for baking, here's a quick link from for you.  Due to the sweetness from the sugars and cinnamon chips, I chose to use a Granny Smith apple here to help even out the flavors but you can choose whatever variety you like.

Apple Cinnamon Muffins/Bread 
courtesy of the KAF Cinnamon Flav-R-Bits package

1 c. White Whole Wheat Flour
1 c. All-Purpose Flour (or 2 c. All-Purpose)
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 c. Butter, at room temperature (salted - if using unsalted, add 1/4 tsp. salt)
1/2 c. Sugar
1/2 c. Brown Sugar
1 Egg
1 c. Buttermilk
1 large apple, peeled, cored, and chopped (I used Granny Smith)
1/2 c. Cinnamon Chips

Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Line a muffin tin with paper cups.
Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, if using.
In a separate bowl, beat the butter with the sugars until fluffy.
Add your egg and mix well.
Mix in the buttermilk to the egg and sugar-butter mixture.
Fold in your dry ingredients, apple, and cinnamon chips.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups.  Should you find yourself with extra batter (which somehow, I did), spray 2 3x5 pans with cooking spray and divide the batter into the pans.
Bake for 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 400°F, and bake for an additional 8 to 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
If you're baking breads, tent some foil over the pans and bake for an additional 10 minutes (30 minutes total).
Don't fret if your muffins come out dark - they're supposed to thanks to the brown sugar.
Cool the muffins for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a rack to cool completely.

Tips-n-Tricks Tuesday - Cooling Muffins

(Yes, yes, I know it's Wednesday.  This was supposed to be posted yesterday but I forgot.  Better late than never!)

When you bake muffins, don't you just hate how sometimes you'll take them out of the oven and let them cool only to find that the bottom of your muffins have steamed?  They turn all mushy and icky.  It can ruin a perfectly good muffin, let me tell you!  But I have a way to fix that!  It's quite simple really...

Once the muffins have cooled for a few minutes, take the muffins and gently turn them sideways so the cool air can get around them.  You can use a fork or your fingers, if they're cool enough to handle that way.

(Have no fear - the recipe for these muffins are forthcoming!)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Blueberry Muffin Bread

In an effort to reduce the number of muffin recipes (especially blueberry muffin recipes), I've decided to try my hand at baking muffin breads (albeit not intentionally... ).

You see, my dad is diabetic (which was completely tragic, let me tell you) and he can no longer have regular white flour (oh the humanity!).  I had a conversation with him not too long about about if he can have white whole wheat flour.  Which turned into a debate over whether or not WWW was the same nutritionally as regular WW.  I was steadfast in my stance that *King Arthur Flour* White Whole Wheat was the exact same as regular Whole Wheat.  I said, "I went to a KAF seminar on whole grains, thank you very much.  So I know what I'm talking about.  I cannot, however, vouch for any other companies's white whole wheat."  (Although in my house, you don't bring in other flour.  It's pretty much sacrilegious.)  Anyhoo, the wheat berries used by KAF are the exact same as the wheat berries used in their whole wheat flower except the berries are really light in color versus the red berry color used in whole wheat flour (hence the color difference).  He agreed to try something baked with KAF's WWW and this is what I whipped up.  Of course, my husband happened to mention that he wanted me to bake some muffins for him for breakfast this week so it killed two birds with one stone.  (I've still yet to figure out why my husband asks me such things.  He thinks I like to cook!)

This recipe originally made 12 muffins using all purpose flour.  By all means, substitute all purpose flour and you'll end up with 12 happy muffins.  However, if you're me and remember that whole wheat flours require additional liquid AFTER you've already divided your extremely thick dough into muffins and STILL have batter left over.  Which I promptly poured into aluminum 3x5 pans thus making Muffin Bread!  Yay for thinking on the fly! And even more Yay! for the fact that it all worked out extremely well.

Blueberry Muffin Bread (or just muffins)
adapted from Down Home with the Neelys

8 Tbsp. (1 stick) Salted Butter, melted (if using unsalted, add 1/4 tsp. salt)
2/3 c. Sugar + 1/3 c. Splenda (or just 1 c. Sugar)
2 Eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 c. Sour Cream (Daisy Light)
1/2 c. Milk (2%)
2 1/4 c. White Whole Wheat Flour (or All-Purpose)
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
Small Carton of Fresh Blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350.
Line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners and spray two mini loaf pan with cooking spray (if going the WWW route).
In a large bowl, cream together your butter and sugar.
Add eggs, one at a time, and mix together.
Now you'll add your vanilla, sour cream, and milk until combined.
Slowly mix in your flour, baking powder and soda, and salt (if using).  (If you're using AP flour, your mixture should be pretty smooth.  If you're using WWW flour, your mixture is going to be crazy thick.)
Fold in your blueberries with a spatula.
Evenly divide your batter into your muffin tin with a measuring cup (I use a 1/4 c. measure).  If you're using WWW flour, you should have a large amount of batter left over which you will divide into two 3x5 pans.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Remove muffins and set aside to cool on a wire rack.
Tent aluminum foil over your mini bread pans and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Biscoff Blondies

I found something wonderful... Biscoff Spread.  Yes, as in a spread made from the wonderful Biscoff cookies.  If you've never had a Biscoff cookies, I demand you go out and find a box and eat them.  Right now.  Not ten minutes from now - RIGHT NOW!

Okay, did you go get some?  Good.  Now you know what I'm talking about.  So just imagine a spread made in that same flavor.  Yes, it is just as good as it sounds.  All rich and decadent and delicious (and to think it isn't even chocolate!).... yum.  It's one of those, "Make you wanna slap yo momma" good things!  Now, Biscoff has both creamy and crunchy spread.  Crunchy?  Yes - as in the crunchy bits are the Biscoff cookies themselves!!  I haven't found the crunchy in stores but I have heard of this legend on other blogs and they say it is just as good as the creamy.  I cannot imagine anything being better than the creamy but I won't know until I try it!

Biscoff spread can be a little difficult to find but I don't recommend substituting regular peanut butter spread simply because the Biscoff flavors this so much and I think you'd really have to do some amp-ing up of flavors to achieve good results.  If you find the Biscoff spread, by all means, have at this recipe.  You won't regret it!!  (Side note:  You can purchase it on Amazon.  This might be a bad idea, knowing I don't have to search for this and we might end up with cases on this stockpiled like I'm awaiting the end of the world.... )

Biscoff Blondies
courtesy of Two Peas and Their Pod

1/4 c. Butter (salted.  If using unsalted, add 1/4 tsp. salt)
1 c. Brown Sugar, light
1/4 c. Biscoff Spread, creamy
1 egg
1/2 tsp Vanilla
1 1/4 c. All Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/8 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 c. White Chocolate Chips

1.   Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2.   Grease an 8x8 pan and wait for it be filled with Biscoff goodness.
3.   Melt the butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth.
4.   Remove from the heat, and stir in the Biscoff Spread, stir until creamily combined.
5.   Allow the mixture to cool.
6.   In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
7.   Add the egg to the cooled Biscoff mixture and combine.
8.   Add the vanilla extract and stir to combine.
9.   Pour your Biscoff mixture into your dry ingredients and stir until smooth.
10. Fold in white chocolate chips.
11. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, spreading the batter evenly to the edges of the pan.
12. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden and a toothpick comes out clean.
13. Cool on a wire rack until ready to serve.

Bread Basket: Homemade Hamburger Buns

November is National Bread Month.  I knew I loved November for reasons beyond Thanksgiving and the birthday of yours truly.  I love bread.  I mean, I REALLY love bread.  And bread loves me.  At least I like to think it does.  When Ryan and I got married, the wedding gift I gave to myself (because, hey, you should always pamper yourself every once in awhile) was a bread machine.  I love that thing.  When we moved into our house, my bread machine was the first thing I put in its proper place.  (Not to mention when we went to look at the house, I turned to Ryan and said, "Look honey!  It's the perfect spot to hold my bread machine!"  Seriously.)

I had never made bread before - ever.  But I loved bread and really wanted to try making it myself and I thought the quickest and easiest way would be to purchase a bread machine and then buy tons of cookbooks on bread machine baking.  This bread machine cookbook is by-far my favorite and go to for recipes besides the ever trusty King Arthur Flour website.  I really enjoyed baking bread in my bread machine and as time went on, I wanted to try my hand at baking breads OUTSIDE of my bread machine.  Now, kneading by hand is time consuming albeit a great upper body workout (you try kneading bread dough for ten minutes and see how you feel) and I do enjoy doing it sometimes.  Like when I'm stressed or had a really bad day and need something to beat into submission (because husbands are out of the question).  Yet there is a lovely setting on all bread machines - Dough.  Yes, you let your bread machine do all the hard work while you sip a daiquiri do housework (hehe).  This is a wonderful thing, truly.

Yeast breads seem to be a bit daunting to people and, truth be told, it was to me at first too.  But now I have it down to a science.  I know what temperature to have the water at to get the best reaction out of my yeast (which I buy in bulk, by the way).  The more you do it, the easier it becomes.  One of my greatest discoveries was how to make my own hamburger buns!  Hamburger buns!!  The recipe I use makes eight total.  Now, it's just me and Ryan so what to do with the other?  Freeze them!  They really are easy and always taste really, really good.

I'm not one of those crazy people who thinks you need to go organic for everything or only purchase gluten-free, low-fat everything.  But I do draw the line at preservatives.  I'm not a fan of them so I try to avoid them as much as I can.  And making your own bread is not only cheaper but always better for your health.  The hamburger buns you purchase at the grocery store has so many ingredients (many of which you can't pronounce unless you have a PhD in Chemistry) that its unreal.  Yet homemade hamburger buns only have SEVEN ingredients.  SEVEN!

For comparison purposes, here are the ingredients in Wonder Hamburger Buns: 
Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Barley Malt, Ferrous Sulfate  (Iron), B Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate  (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin  (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid)], Water, Sweetener (High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar), Yeast, Soybean Oil, Contains 2% or Less of Wheat Gluten, Salt, Calcium Sulfate, Dough Conditioners (May Contain Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Tricalcium Phosphate, ethoxylated Mono And Diglycerides, Datem, Dicalcium Phosphate, Mono And Diglycerides, Calcium Dioxide, and/or Sorbic Acid), Vinegar, Soy Flour, Yeast Nutrients (May Contain Ammonium Chloride, Ammonium Phosphate, Diammonium Phosphate, Ammonium Sulfate, Monocalcium Phosphate and/or Calcium Carbonate), Cornstarch, Wheat Starch, Enzymes, Calcium Propionate  (to Retain Freshness), Soy Lecithin.

I use Granular Lecithin in some of my breads to aid in preservation but that's it.  Now, how many of you can pronounce all those ingredients?  And can tell me what all they do?  Yeah, didn't think so.  If you really want to take good, active steps towards making your family healthier, baking your own breads is a very good place to start.

Homemade Hamburger Buns
courtesy of KAF's Baker's Companion

3/4 to 1 c. Water (around body temperature.  You can determine the temp the same way you do a baby bottle - feeling with the underside of your wrist.)
2 Tbsp. Butter, melted
1 Egg
3 1/2 c. All-Purpose Flour (or whole wheat)
1/4 c. Sugar
1 1/4 tsp. Salt (kosher is preferred)
1 Tbsp. Instant Yeast
1 Tbsp. Butter, melted (to brush on buns before baking)

1.  Combine all ingredients together and mix until well combined, using 3/4 c. of water to start with. 
Note:  Why the variation in the amount of water?  Well, first off, if you're using whole wheat flour, you'll need to add more water because whole wheat needs additional water to really make it cohesive.  Secondly, yeast doughs are affected by a lot of different factor - the temperature inside your house, the humidity, etc.  If your dough is too dry, you'll add a little more water or if it's too wet, you'll add more flour.
2.  Knead dough by hand for ten minutes, until you have a smooth and supple dough.  (If using a bread machine, use your machine's instruction on how to add the ingredients.  Mine is liquid-dry-yeast.)
3.  Cover and let dough rise in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours or until doubled in height.  (If using a bread machine, allow it complete its dough cycle.)
4.  Using a knife or dough scraper, sprayed with cooking spray, divide the dough into EIGHT portions (I use the pizza slicing method to make sure they're all the same size).
5.  Now you shape the dough into smooth balls (my method means turning the dough in my hand while pushing the dough inward so it gets all smooth on top).
6.  On a large baking sheet, covered in parchment or sprayed with cooking spray, evenly spread out your balls of dough.
7.  Gently press down the dough until it is about 3 to 3 1/2 inches wide.
8.  Cover the buns and allow to rise for 1 hour (they won't look doubled).
9.  While you buns are rising for the second time, preheat your oven to 375.
10. Brush with melted butter (you can top with sesame seeds now if you like!).
11. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden.


For more detailed instructions and pictures, please visit the King Arthur Flour Baking Banter blog.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tips-N-Tricks Tuesday - Bacon... Frozen?

New series a'comin'!  Tips-N-Tricks Tuesday!  Every once in awhile, I come across a post that just some really cool information that I never knew before.  Instead of adding it to a post where people will have to search, scratching their head, going, "It was here somewhere................. "  And then they drown in the abyss of the internet.  So I decided I would just start a new series!  Sometimes, I may post actual recipes (like making your own pumpkin pie spice) or I may post little tips and tricks (hence the name) for little things in life to help you out in the kitchen.

So, as the inaugural post (the election was last week so I feel comfortable using the term, plus I like big words, big $.50 words!), we are going to post a tip about Ryan's favorite food group - Bacon.  Yes, according to my husband, it is a food group.  It's apparently right in between breads/whole grains and fruit and vegetables, meaning you need to eat to eat around 5 servings a day.  Yeah, nothing wrong with that *roll eyes*  Anyhoo, most people, if you're like myself, do not use an entire package of bacon before it goes bad.  And if you've ever seen bacon that's gone bad, you completely understand the urgent need for this post.  The original post came from America's Test Kitchen which is known for doing some wild and crazy things in the name of, not only science, but of the kitchen.  Why no one had ever thought of this, I have no idea.  Sometimes, the information they post is so unbelievably simple that you just want to smack yourself on the head for not thinking of it first.  This is one of those times!

Freezing Bacon

Taking two to four individual slices of bacon, roll up the bacon until they become a tight cylinder.
Put bacon cylinders into a ziploc bag and seal.
Put bacon cylinders into your freezer and lay flat until completely frozen.  (The reason for this is to ensure the bacon does not freeze in between the small spaces on the shelves.)
Once they are completely frozen, you can put them anywhere in the freezer.
When you need some bacon, defrost and you are ready to go.

Original ATK Post

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

Hi folks!  You might notice a lack of cookie recipes in the upcoming month.  Why?  Because I am participating in the 2nd Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!  A ton of bloggers (over 500!) are participating in this year's event, including yours truly for the very first time :)  Basically, all participants get names and addresses of three people who are participating and you have to send them one dozen cookies.  So by the time it's all said and done, I'll have sent out 36 cookies and I'll be getting a dozen cookies from 3 different people.  How cool is that???  I'm not allowed to post the recipe of which cookie I select to send out to the lovely people who get chosen for me so while I'm off experimenting with my recipes, I won't be posting them.  However, you will get to see the finished recipe on Dec. 12th and I'll try to post pictures of the cookies I receive shortly thereafter.  See y'all on Dec. 12th!  (Yeah, I'll be around until then posting other stuff so I won't leave you completely since I know y'all love me so much =D )

 The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Freezer Baking Cheat Sheet

Have you looked at a calendar lately?  It's friggin NOVEMBER!  ALREADY!!  Christmas commercials are already being shown on TV (I'm looking at you Target).  Now, I love Christmas as much as the next person - just ask my husband.  I grew up with a father who started listening to Christmas music in JULY.  And I won't lie - I do it too.  White Christmas is one of my favorite movies of all time and I will watch it at any time (again, just ask my husband).  Bing Crosby just has one of those voices that just makes you float away on a soft, puffy cloud on a bright, sunshine-y day while the birds land on your finger and whistle in tune... okay, that may be a bit excessive but you get the idea.  But I need to get through the baking items of Thanksgiving before I can even begin planning what Christmas things I'm going to bake.

I do love the holiday for more than just my love of Bing Crosby.  As you may have guessed, another reason is simply because it gives me an excuse to bake.  A lot.  I've loved baking since I was a little girl and its turned into a love that's continued on into my adulthood (or just really-super-grown-up-little-kid, that works too).  Each year, my best friend and I put our cooking/baking skills to good use and make up Christmas tins full of baked goodies for our family to enjoy.  However, last year, my world was turned upside down.  My father was diagnosed with diabetes.  And, you guessed it, he was one of the main people I got to try my recipes (if it was terrible, he'd tell me, no dancing around with him).  That just presented a huge problem because last year was the first year where I was like, "I'm going to bake gifts this year."  Yeah, that worked.  I did end up making him lots of spice mixes for him to use all the meat he likes to eat (dad is a hunter and the freezer is usually well stocked with venison and pheasant and sometimes you'll even find some wild boar) so everything came out okay.

Back to baking for the holiday season.  Because it's November.  November 8th people - as in 14 days until Thanksgiving and 47 days until Christmas.  You should begin freaking out now.  Or....... you can use my Freezer Baking Cheat Sheet!  Baking ahead of time can cause a large amount of your holiday headaches to go away.  I know that I've always wanted to try baking and freezing items to use a moment's notice but I either couldn't find what I was looking for and got ill and gave up or just decided to make something else.  With this cheat sheet, you have easily within your reach, the ability to have scones, pies, biscuits, breads, and even CINNAMON ROLLS ready to go at a moments notice (I've even gone the extra mile and told you how you can have individual cinnamon rolls ready to go in a moment's notice which might wreak havoc on your waistline but oh well).  I've included keep times for how long you can keep those items in the freezer without suffering an effects on the taste or texture.  I must, MUST give complete credit to the awesome people at King Arthur Flour who did all the work and posted their results on their blog.  I just compiled all that stuff and put it all together.

Freezer Baking Cheat Sheet
(if anyone has issues opening this - which you shouldn't - please leave a comment below.)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Vanilla Pudding Chocolate Chip Cookies

I can see the "?" above your head as you read that title.  "Um, vanilla pudding?  In cookies?"  I can feel your doubt - I'm hurt.  Would I ever lead you astray by giving you a bad recipe?  No, not me.  Unless I choose to follow along in King Arthur Flour's footsteps and post an April Fool's Day post of all my recipes that just didn't stand up to my high expectations.  Like my attempt at pumpkin pie bread.  I honestly think that bread could have been classified as a lethal weapon, it was so hard.  Maybe I should've kept it around for my husband irritates me.  I could hit him with it...........  *shakes head* Okay, I'm back with you now.

There are many things in life that are distracting.  My dog is a good example.  She moves and I notice it.  She breathes funny and I'm suddenly on alert (although I'm sure that's more my vet training kicking in).  Another thing I find distracting?  Books of any and all kinds.  I love books.  When Ryan and I moved into our new house all those months ago, the majority of our boxes contained clothes and books.  (I think the clothes boxes only edged out the book boxes by a few.)  My husband got the bright idea to get me an e-reader a couple of years ago and I've amounted over 200 books on it.  I told you I liked to read.  So on the note about liking to read... I love, love cooking blogs!  Probably because I love to cook.  Combining my love of cooking with my love of reading - happy Jamie!  I find myself reading blogs sometimes all day, wasting paper on printing tons of recipes when I already have tons of recipe books. Yeah, cooking blogs are super distracting.  You can look at all the pretty pictures and all the stories for hours on end.  I'm not joking, I've done it before.  Many times.

While on the subject of cooking blogs, I do have my favorites.  In case you haven't noticed, on the right hand side of your screen, if you scroll down far enough, you'll find my favorite cooking blogs.  They all have great recipes.  You cannot go wrong with those blogs.  Some of them, I like simply because I'm amazed by the creativity of them (Sweetapolita and Bake at 350 are simply droolworthy) yet they all have very easy to create recipes.  Although I could never decorate cookies the way Bridget at Bake at 350 does.  My hands just wouldn't cooperate.  I'm lucky if I get a smooth spread on my sheet cakes for crying out loud!

(And, hey, if you don't take my word that putting pudding into cookies can be a good thing, go to your local grocery store and find a box of Betty Crocker Super Moist Cake Mix and look down at the bottom of the front of the box.  It says, "Pudding is still in the mix!"  So it's not just me... or the people who made the recipe.)

Vanilla Pudding Chocolate Chip Cookies
courtesy of Two Peas and Their Pod

1 c. Butter, room temp
1/4 c. Sugar
3/4 c. Brown Sugar
3.4 oz. package Vanilla Instant Pudding Mix
2 Eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 1/4 c. All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
2 c. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350.
Blend together butter and sugars until creamy.
Next, mix in pudding, eggs, and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking soda.
Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and stir until combined.
Mix in chocolate chips.
Taste cookie dough - realize how yummy it is.
Drop cookie mix by the tablespoon (again, cookie scoop works great here) onto a cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden.
Let cool on a cooling rack.

My husband is from Texas so I have no idea why I bought this mug.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Budget Friendly Dinner Series - Old Bay Shrimp and Mac and Cheese

You cannot find a quicker meal than fish or shrimp (which is all in the same category to me - nevermind that fish is fish and shrimp are crustaceans).  Honestly, medium-sized shrimp cooked over medium-high heat are finished cooking within five minutes.  How much quicker can you get?  Soooooo, to go with quick shrimp, you need a quick side dish.  My new favorite mac and cheese recipe takes less than fifteen minutes to make - and that's including the time it takes to the boil the pasta!  I found this recipe while going through my Cooking Light cookbooks and having over ten years worth of their Annual Recipes books, I had quite a few recipes to choose from. 

Ryan loves mac and cheese but doesn't really like the baked kind.  He wants the cheesy stovetop kind (are all husbands this picky?).  Because I'm such a good wife (yes, yes I am, thank you very much) and because I'm always looking for ways to cut calories while retaining flavor and being somewhat health (we have to maintain a good balance between all the sweets and meals I make), finding this recipe just blew me away.  So simple yet healthy even though it tastes indulgent.  Its become my favorite go-to mac and cheese recipe and I've made in once more since I made this original recipe!   And it requires no fancy ingredients (unless you consider 1% milk fancy) so you're all set to go.

Old Bay Shrimp and Mac and Cheese
shrimp created by me!
mac and cheese recipe adapted from Cooking Light 

Shrimp (2 servings)
1/2 lb. Medium Sized Shrimp, tail off, deviened
1 Tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning (more or less, to your taste)
2 Tbsp. Butter

Mac and Cheese (4 servings)
1 1/4 c. Macaroni Pasta, uncooked
1 c. 1% Milk (if 2% is what you have on hand or all you can find, that's okay.  Just don't use skim - you need that milkfat to get the creamiest mac and cheese)
2 Tbsp. All Purpose Flour
1 1/4 c. Cheddar Cheese, shredded
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Cook pasta according to package instruction, not including the oil stated in the directions.
During the last few minutes of cooking your pasta, make the cheese sauce by adding the milk and flour to a saucepan (at least 2 qt. size) over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk.
Once thickened (about two minutes or so), add your cheddar cheese and whisk until melted.
Remove from heat.
Drain pasta.
Mix pasta into cheese sauce and season with salt and pepper.
Let sit for four minute (this helps the sauce to thicken).
While the mac and cheese is resting, you can make the shrimp.
In a ziploc bag, combine the shrimp and Old Bay Seasoning and shake to evenly coat the shrimp.
Put your butter into a skillet and melt over medium-high heat.
Pour the shrimp into the skillet and cook until done, turning once (about four to six minutes).

Friday, October 5, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Continuing with our cartoon theme, today's post is brought to you by the movie Up.  If you've never seen it, I demand you go find it without delay!  It is such a good movie.  The beginning will make you cry though.  (Do I need to tell you again how much I hate to cry?  We went through that already.)  You already know that I'm a fan of taking movie quotes and making them my own and here's today's!

It's like Cookies but BARS!

(You can see the video clip here.  YouTube doesn't want to share this clip.  Not exactly sure why but oh well.  We'll carry on anyway.)

Another reason why I love this movie?  Dug.  I love this dog.  It makes me want to get a blonde male dog just so I can name it Dug.  But the husband doesn't want to get another dog just yet so I've settled for having a cookie jar that looks like Dug that I call... you got it!  Dug :)  (I have a habit of naming inanimate objects - cars, cookie jars, etc.)

The recipe for these cookie bars is the exact same as the basic chocolate chip cookie that I posted the other day.  I'm going to repost the recipe here with the directions adjusted so you can make the cookies into bars. (Like I said, "it's like cookies but BARS.")

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

2 1/4 c. All Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
2 sticks Butter (salted.  If using unsalted, add 1 tsp. salt)
3/4 c. Sugar
3/4 c. Packed Brown Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 Eggs
1 c. Chocolate Chips (1/2 of a 12 oz. package)

Preheat oven to 375.
Mix together butter, sugars, and vanilla until creamy.
Add eggs, one at a time, and making sure to beat well after each addition.
Toss in your flour and baking soda.
Stir in your chocolate chips.
Resist the urge to eat the entire mixture of chocolate chip cookie dough.
Press cookie dough into a greased 9x13 pan.
Cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.  (My cookies took 20 minutes.)

(Ryan bought me that mug when he went to NYC a few years ago.  Ain't he sweet?)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Basic Chocolate Chip Cookies

Everyone needs a good recipe for chocolate chip cookies in their recipe box.  This is my go-to recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  I have tried to make other recipes but this is the one I always, always come back to.  And I think you will too.

Now, scroll to the bottom and see the picture that goes with the recipe.  I'll wait.  *waiting... taps fingers on keyboard*  Okay, back with me now?  Did you see the mug?  Do you see the beautiful dog that's on said mug?  That is my beautiful little girl, Liz.  I've had her since she was only six weeks old.  I picked her out when she was two weeks old.  I remember holding her as a baby and hearing her sigh against my chest and my heart was lost.  Gone.  My heart was no longer in my body but now lived in a little runt of a puppy with a big white star on her chest (yep, five pointed star, the top point of which stretches all the way up to her chin).  I knew when she was two weeks old that she was going to come home with me.  No ifs, ands, or buts about it.  Except for that little problem of convincing my father.  My mom already loved her - she was the one who drove me out to see the puppies after all.  Of course, conspiring is just one of those things that all women do well.  Its in our genes I think...  Under the pretense of "just wanting to go see the puppies", we managed to drag my father out to where Liz and her brothers and sisters were at.  Dad was steadfast, "We are NOT coming home with a puppy."  "Sure" was my response.  I knew better.  I went to find my puppy (yes, I was already calling her "mine") and off we went in search of my dad.  When I found him, I was holding Liz to my chest and I said, "Isn't she cute?  Don't you want to hold her?"  Despite his protests, I managed to get Liz in his hands and then he said, "We're coming home with a puppy, aren't we?"  She turned 11 years old in August and she's still my little baby.  And certainly a mommy's girl.  It drives Ryan insane when he asks her to do something and won't do it but the moment mommy says to do it, away she goes.  Yep, mommy's baby.

Anyway, back to the mug!  There is a lovely story about that mug.  Back when Ryan and I were still dating and he still lived in Texas, he sent me two of the sweetest gifts I've ever gotten - a dog bowl with Liz's picture on it (which currently houses all her cookies) and this mug.  And I love them.  Even five years later, I still look at them and smile :-) (He must have somehow known that the keys to my heart lived in a little black and white mutt.... no clue where he would've gotten that idea.)

Basic Chocolate Chip Cookies
courtesy of All Time Favorite Cookie and Baking Recipes

2 1/4 c. All Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
2 sticks Butter (salted.  If using unsalted, add 1 tsp. salt)
3/4 c. Sugar
3/4 c. Packed Brown Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 Eggs
1 c. Chocolate Chips (1/2 of a 12 oz. package)

Preheat oven to 375.
Mix together butter, sugars, and vanilla until creamy.
Add eggs, one at a time, and making sure to beat well after each addition.
Throw in (not literally, of course - no messes in my kitchen.) your flour and baking soda.
Stir in your chocolate chips.
Resist the urge to eat the entire mixture of chocolate chip cookie dough.
Drop by tablespoonfuls (wow, that's a word according to spell check.) onto a baking sheet.  (I have mentioned before cookie scoops are wonderful things - for stuff like cookies!)
Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. (I go for 9 - I like my cookies chewy, extra chewy.)
Cool for two minutes and allow to finish cooling on a wire rack.

Blackberry-Peach Coffee Cake

Do you remember awhile back I posted the Blackberry Turnover post and I promised another blackberry recipe would be forthcoming?  Well, here it is.  Blackberry-Peach Coffee Cake.  After I had made the blackberry turnovers, I had just a few blackberries left.  Certainly not enough to make another specific blackberry-y thing so I needed a recipe that used not only blackberries but also another fruit.  Off I went in search of recipes.  I didn't take me long to find this recipe which I knew all my family and friends would love since they all love both peaches and blackberries (and I actually tried this one due to the large amount of peaches included in the recipe and you know I love me some peaches!).  I posted the picture of the coffee cake before the streusel was put on so you could see all the lovely berry-fruity goodness. 

I used fresh peaches and blackberries but you could use any sort of fresh fruit you have on hand.  I'm sure a fresh, mixed berry coffee cake would be wonderful!

Blackberry-Peach Coffee Cake
courtesy of Classic Southern Desserts

Coffee Cake:
1/2 c. Butter, softened
1 c. Sugar
2 Eggs
2 c. All-Purpose Flour
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
2/3 c. Milk
2 tsp. Vanilla
2 c. Fresh Peaches, peeled and sliced
1 c. Fresh Blackberries

Streusel Topping:
1/2 c. Butter, softened
1/2 c. Sugar
1/2 c. Firmly Packed Light Brown Sugar
2/3 c. All Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Ground Nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350.
Prepare streusel topping by beating the butter at medium speed with a mixer until creamy.
Gradually adding both sugars and mixing until combined.
Add your flour and spices and beat until blended.
Now its time to make the coffee cake!
Once again, beat your butter with a mixer until creamy.
Add sugar and mix well.
Now you need to mix in your eggs, one at a time, blending completely after each addition.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
Alternate adding your flour mixture and milk to your butter mixture, starting and ending with the flour, beating at a low speed.
Stir in vanilla.
Pour the batter into an 8x8 pan that's been coated in non-stick spray (preferably using a non-stick spray that includes flour).
Top with your fruity goodness.
Spread your streusel mixture on top of the fruity goodness, working in one-inch pieces.
Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Allow to cool on a wire rack for at least 1 and a half hours (yep, long time.).

Note:  I used a glass 8x8 pan.  If you want to use a dark pan, wrap the outsides with foil before baking to get the best results.

(ain't it pretty?)


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Key Lime Cheesecake

I am a twenty-six year old woman and I am not ashamed to admit that I love, LOVE Disney and Pixar movies.  I will happily quote lines from The Lion King, Up (Dug!), Cinderella, Monsters, Inc., Ratatouille... you get the idea.  My latest "obsession" is with Gnomeo and Juliet.  I just love this movie!  It's so adorably cute!  I go around quoting it all day long and humming the songs from the movie (once you hear "Crocodile Rock", its stuck in your head  I'm sure you're wondering what on earth this has to do with cheesecake.  Well, allow me to explain and tell you a slightly sappy story...

The blogosphere is full of people who cook and post their recipes.  Most of the posts are light-hearted and fun and full of cute anecdotes.  But every once in a while, you'll come across a post that just tugs at your heart strings.  I was searching through one of my favorite blogs ( when I came across this post.  I'll save you the process of reading and just explain to you that just over a year ago, a blogger by the name of Jennifer lost her husband.  He was in perfect health.  She had popped out to get some groceries with her daughter and returned home to find him dead from a heart attack.  In a very brave post on her blog where she told the world of her loss, she requested that the people who read her post bake a Peanut Butter Pie in memory of her husband (that was his favorite).  One of her biggest regrets was not making him a peanut butter pie before he passed away.  She said that something always got in the way of her making it or she just decided to put it off in favor of baking something else.  That story really got to me.  I read the original post from her blog and her subsequent posts where she chronicled her daily life without her husband.  Yes, I cried - I cried a lot.  I don't like to cry.  At all.  Period.

Ryan is always asking me to make a key lime cheesecake and I, just like Jennifer did, put it off to do something else.  But when I read her post and how her grief showed through her words, I felt like she was speaking to me when she would mention that we may not have another day with the person we love the most and we should do what we can for them while we have them.  So I decided to not wait another day and make my husband a key lime cheesecake.  (end of sappy story.)

Okay, so what all does this have to do with cartoons?  Well, like I said before, Gnomeo and Juliet has been my cartoon movie of choice here lately.  (I mean, its GNOMES!  That's just beyond awesome.)  When I made this pie, I proudly went to Ryan and said, "This recipe has been made before.  A lot.  And now I've made it AGAIN!  But different."  He gave me a very strange look and I then explained to him that I was paraphrasing this:

It made perfect sense to him and gave him a good laugh.  Oh and he really liked the cheesecake too.  And isn't that what love is all about?  Laughing with those you care about over some good food?  (And I'm from the south where we celebrate EVERYTHING with food so that answer should obviously be yes.)

(This cheesecake is so simple it's ridiculous.  If you don't like using key lime juice, the original recipe called for lemon juice so you can easily make that.  No, it doesn't make lemon cheesecake.  Don't ask me why the key lime flavor comes out so much more in this and not with the lemon.  Blame it on the rain or whatever.)

Key Lime Cheesecake
adapted from my Aunt Betty's recipe

1 Graham Cracker Crust
1 8 oz. Cream Cheese (full fat please!), room temp
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk (you can use the reduced fat version)
1/3 c. Key Lime Juice (bottled is fine)
1 tsp. Vanilla

Open graham cracker crust package.
Combine ALL remaining ingredients in a bowl.
Pour into crust.
Seal top of graham cracker crust package.
Open fridge.
Place in fridge.
Close door.
Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.  (I've found it sets better if you let it rest overnight.)
(I told you it was so simple it was ridiculous.)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Budget Friendly Dinner Series - Ryan's Favorite Chicken Wings

There are a few moments in life where, as a wife, your husband looks over and he realizes that he's a very, very lucky man for marrying you.  Those moments usually occur over food.  At least, most of mine do.  The first time I made these chicken wings (and every time since then, might I add), Ryan realizes he's a very lucky man for marrying me almost two years ago now.  We can't really figure out why exactly he loves these chicken wings but he eats a huge amount every time.  I don't even need to make a side dish.  I tried to do that once many years ago and the side just sat there, untouched, while the chicken wings were polished off.  That's why this is going under the "dinner series" instead of just being considered as an appetizer or a snack for someone.  So stop putting chicken wings under "Super Bowl Party Food" and "appetizer" and serve them up for dinner!! 

Ryan's Favorite Chicken Wings

1 c. Ketchup
1/4 c. Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp. Orange Juice
1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp. Liquid Smoke
1/2 tsp. Dry Mustard
1/4 tsp. Texas Pete (or other hot sauce) - more or less to taste
1 Large Pack of Chicken Wings or 2 Small Packs

Preheat oven to 375.
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the chicken.
Reserve 1/2 c. sauce and set aside.
Add the chicken to the remaining sauce, turning to coat.
Put the chicken on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil sprayed with cooking spray.
Cook for 20 minutes.
Place the remaining sauce on the chicken and bake for another 20 minutes.
Enjoy :-)

Blackberry Turnovers

I'll be honest with you.  I'm not a fan of blackberries.  Ryan loves them.  My mom loves them.  Erin loves them.  I couldn't care less whether I ate them or not.  No, put some strawberries in front of me and I'll be all over them!  But blackberries, eh.  So, being the good wife/friend/daughter that I am, I purchased some fresh blackberries at the farmer's market and got to making some blackberry stuff.  You'll see another blackberry recipe coming soon.

This is a super versatile recipe!  And it's incredibly good (according to my feedback - because I didn't try them due to the not-too-crazy-about-blackberries thing).  You can easily adjust the sugar to compensate for any change in fruit that you'd like.  Are you like me and not crazy about blackberries?  You could easily substitute raspberries or blueberries or even a bag of mixed berries.  Just run with it honey!

Now, for a bit of shameless product placement.  You heard me sing the praises of Instant ClearJel on the Free Form Peach Pie post.  Well, you're going to hear it again.  I love ClearJel.  I told Erin that it was the best invention for pie since the crust!  Do you absolutely, positively need ClearJel for this recipe?  Well, no, but it certainly helps.  You can certainly use cornstarch instead of ClearJel but here is what I have against cornstarch - it clumps and doesn't always thicken.  I tried using cornstarch with this recipe because I know not everyone has ClearJel in their pantry and it never thickened.  I whipped out my ClearJel and voila!  Thickening!  I was ecstatic - the recipe could go on.  So I highly recommend that if you make fruit pie-ish things a lot, you need ClearJel in your pantry.  (I learnt my precious ClearJel to Erin over the weekend where she made an amazing blueberry pie and that pie never once ran off into the pan after she began cutting her slices.  I have converted her and she's requested a bag for Christmas.  Now it is my mission to convert you!) 

Blackberry Turnovers
courtesy of Williams-Sonoma Fruit Desserts

1 c. Berries, fresh or thawed frozen
1/2 c. Sugar
2 Tbsp. Cornstarch (or ClearJel)
Pinch of salt
1 Sheet of Puff Pastry, Thawed according to instructions on package

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (yes, this is important in case you have run off while everything is cooking away).
In a saucepan over low heat, combine your berries with 2 Tbsp. water, sugar, salt, and cornstarch/ClearJel.
Heat, stirring constantly until the mixture is jam-like and thick (about 5 minutes).
Let your jam cool completely in the fridge for 1 hour.
On a lightly floured surface, roll our your puff pastry to about a 10x10 square.
Cut the puff pastry into four even squares.
Preheat your oven to 375.
Divide the filling evenly between the four squares (around 2-3 Tbsp. for each turnover).
Brush the edges with water and fold over into a triangle, sealing the sides by pressing the sides closed with a fork.
Place the turnovers onto your prepared baking sheet, 2 inches apart, and place in the fridge for another 15 minutes.
Bake the turnovers for 25-35 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.
Let cool for 20 minutes.

Simple Peanut Butter Cookies

Who doesn't love peanut butter cookies?  Besides people who have peanut allergies - the poor souls.  I could never imagine not having peanut butter ever again.  I just LOVE peanut butter!  I hope to make some peanut butter balls in the future (and if you grew up in the South, you should know what peanut butter balls are - if you don't, I feel terribly sorry for you because you don't know what you're missing)... *drools*  Okay, back to cookies!  This recipe has only FOUR, yes, four, ingredients!  And I can pretty much guarantee that you have all the ingredients in your pantry.  Therefore, you have absolutely no reason whatsoever to not make these cookies immediately.  So, go, get to it!  What's that?  You need the recipe?  Read on...

Simple Peanut Butter Cookies
courtesy of The Lady and Sons, Too!

1 c. Peanut Butter (whether you use creamy or crunchy is totally up to you.  I used creamy.)
1 c. Sugar
1 Egg
1 tsp. Vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350.
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well.
Using a cookie scoop or a spoon, roll your dough into balls about the size of walnuts (if you use a cookie scoop, this will make this step just fly by!).
Put the cookie dough onto a cookie sheet.
Using a fork, make a crisscross design on the tops of each cookie, squishing them down.
Bake for 12 minutes.
Try not to burn your mouth by trying the hot cookies :)

(Don't you just love my Coldplay Mylo Xyloto mug??  I got it when me, Ryan, and Erin went to their concert in Charlotte back in July.  I love it.)

Blueberry Whole Wheat Muffins

I know what you're thinking... another blueberry muffin recipe?!  Well, I have a difficult secret to let you all in on.  I have waaaaaaay too many cookbooks.  *sighs*  There, I said it.  Do you feel that?  It's a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders.  Doesn't it feel nice? :)  I really do have a lot of cookbooks though - much to Ryan's amazement.  I believe when we counted, we got around 75 (although I have sold some that I didn't use but it has yet to really make a dent in my cookbook collection).  I can never get enough (especially baking cookbooks - no clue as to why.  It isn't like I like to bake or anything.).  So I continue to buy them!  It's a compulsion... I just can't stop.  Even now, I have around four or five cookbooks on my Amazon wish list.  So this is the reason why you will sometimes see the "same" recipe but it's different because it's from a different cookbook.  I shall do my best to ensure no one gets confused but let's be honest with each other, shall we?  I won't post a bad recipe so even if you do get confused, it's all good (literally).

So with this recipe, I wanted to make it slightly better for everyone so instead of making this recipe with regular all purpose flour, I used white whole wheat flour.  It has a more subtle wheat flavor than all out whole wheat flour but with all the whole wheat benefits.  But here's the trick with whole wheat/white whole wheat... sometimes that whole wheat-y flavor can overpower your baked goods.  So how do we overcome that wheat-y flavor??  Orange Juice.  Yep, the same stuff you'll probably drink with these muffins in the morning. Don't ask me why but you don't really taste the orange juice but it does cut through that wheat-y flavor so it makes everyone happy.  You can thank the people at King Arthur Flour later.

This recipe hails from a little bakery down in Savannah, Georgia, which, unfortunately, I have yet to visit but do not fear, Gaited Baker readers, for it is on my to-do list!  The bakery is called Back in the Day Bakery (which is a great name, by the way) and they recently released their cookbook which I drooled over for months before finally purchasing it.  I went back and forth and back and forth, asking myself, "Do I really need another baking cookbook?"  Of course, the answer was, "Yes!!!"

Blueberry Whole Wheat Muffins
courtesy of Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook

2 c. White Whole Wheat Flour (feel free to substitute all purpose if that's what you have on hand)
1 c. Sugar
1 T. Baking Powder
1/4 c. Canola Oil
4 T. Butter, Melted
1/2 tsp. Vanilla
2 Eggs
2 T. Orange Juice + enough Milk to equal 3/4 c. (omit orange juice if using AP flour)
1 c. Fresh or Frozen Blueberries

Preheat oven to 350.
Spray your 12 muffin cup papers and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder.
In a separate bowl, mix together the oil, butter, vanilla, eggs, orange juice (if using), and milk.
Mix your wet ingredients into your dry until just combined.
Gently fold in your blueberries (you can toss them with a bit of flour if you're worried about them sinking - I didn't both with that and you'll see I didn't have that problem*.)
Scoop the batter into your muffin cups until about 2/3 full.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and muffins cooked through.
Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 very long minutes while you drool and wait for them to cool.
Store in an airtight container.

* - the few muffins that don't have berries on top are merely an accident.  The berries didn't sink!  Honest!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Georgia Peach Cake (and a new addition!)

First of all, I have happy news to share with everyone!  My husband and I have welcomed a new addition into our home!  We received an email from a local animal group who were looking for a home for a black cat that was found at a trash dump.  One of the employees heard him calling out from INSIDE the trash compactor!  Poor guy was going to be crushed to death!  The employees are fairly certain someone had physically put him inside the compactor.  They took him out and contacted the animal group to find him a home because otherwise, they would have to contact animal control where he would likely be put to sleep.  He was estimated to be eight month's old and the outlook for his placement was bleak... until we got the email that is.  We live on two acres of land and we had previously discussed getting an outdoor cat to keep the mice away (keep mice away = keep snakes away = happy Jamie).  I have a soft spot for black animals (our dog is a black and white lab mix) and so Ryan and I decided we would take him in.  I named him "Bart" and he has fit into our home like an old shoe.  He fits in so well with our family.  He follows us around the yard and even tries to play with Liz, our dog.  He acts like he has lived with us his entire life rather than only just over a month.

Onto another happy subject - CAKE!  Who doesn't love cake?  A show of hands.... *counts*  Lots of people like cake apparently.  That's good because I like cake too.  If I didn't like cake, I wouldn't be posting this.  The Georgia Peach Cake is one of those recipes that is so simple, even the most basic of cooks could make it.  I like to joke that it's so easy, my husband could make it.  Yes, my husband.  The same husband who I jokingly (but lovingly) say will burn down my kitchen if he spends too much time in there.  Even in the little write up about the recipe says it's perfect for "young housewife" days.  Not really sure if I should be insulted by that or not.  Never have I ever been a "young housewife" - I'm Jamie, Queen of the Kitchen!  Bow before me!  Okay, I'm done now ;-)

This recipe is a super versatile recipe - there are so many possible combinations.  Up next will be an apple-spice cake.  This could probably even be good for people who are watching their sugar, provided you can find a sugar free/reduced sugar boxed cake mix (they do exist.  I have seen them... I just can't remember where) and you use a reduced sugar pie filling.  Did I mention this recipe was versatile?

Georgia Peach Cake
courtesy of Uncle Bubba's Savannah Seafood

18.25 oz. Yellow Cake Mix
21 oz. can Peach Pie Filling
3 Eggs
1/2 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 c. Pecans, Chopped

1/2 c. Sugar
1/2 c. All-Purpose Flour
4 Tbsp. Butter
1/2 tsp. Vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.
Spray your 9x13 pan with butter cooking spray.
Combine together all the ingredients for the cake and pour into your 9x13 pan.
In a separate bowl, using your fingers, mix together all ingredients for the topping until it looks like large breadcrumbs.
Sprinkle your topping mixture over the cake (gee, who didn't guess that one?!).
Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack.
Serve warm and with ice cream!

Gaye's Chocolate Pie

Every once in a while, someone comes along who holds a special spot in your heart, no matter what happens to you or them.  For me, one of those special someones is a black lab named Bubba (my husband will argue that I'd fall for any black lab I came into contact with but I digress).  When I first began working for my vet many, many years ago, I came across many dogs but there was just something special about Bubba.  He was always happy go lucky... unless he was in one of the exam rooms (but few dogs are ever happy in an exam room)!!  He didn't even need a leash when he came in the office.  He would just walk right back to the kennel because that's where he knew he was supposed to go.  During his final year, he required a permanent catheter to be placed into his bladder which had to be cleaned three times a day.  His mom would ask me to come over and clean his catheter when she would go out of town.  Bubba and I grew very close during our time together.  I held his head when he was finally put to sleep after fighting a long battle with his illness.  I even still have the earring he ripped out of my ear many years ago when I was trying to keep him still for a nail trim (did I mention I can still see the scar he gave me when one of his freshly trimmed toe nails scratched my arm?).  It reminds me of him every time I wear it.  I still miss him terribly and I know that I'll see him again one day...

Bubba and I before his decline

Okay!  Food time.  (After we've all grabbed a tissue, that is.)  Bubba's mom was named Gaye.  She was a truly great woman!  Anyone who ever brought us food this good was alright in our book.  She would bring us homecooked desserts to the office sometimes.  During one of those visits, she brought this pie.  I begged and pleaded (okay, I asked maybe twice) for her to give me the recipe - it was just so good!!  I'm so glad she did because this has become one of my favorite pie recipes ever.  It's so simple and easy to make.  A good recipe to have in your cookbook anytime you realize its Sunday morning and you need to make a dessert for that afternoon.

Gaye's Chocolate Pie
courtesy of Bubba's mom, Gaye

Uncooked Regular Pie Shell

1 Stick of Butter, Melted
2 Squares of Baker's Chocolate (unsweetened)
1 c. Sugar
2 Eggs, Beaten
1 tsp. Vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350 - please put a cookie sheet into your oven to preheat along with your oven.
Melt chocolate in microwave.
Combine all ingredients (tempering your eggs first.  How do you do that?  Add a little bit of melted butter or chocolate to your beaten eggs to bring them up to temperature without making scrambled eggs).
Pour into pie crust.
Put your filled pie onto the preheated cookie sheet and put back into the oven.
Cook for 25-30 minutes or until the center of the pie is firm.

Now, you may be asking, "Why on earth would you preheat your cookie sheet?"  Because you are cooking a filled pie, preheating the cookie sheet allows the pie crust at the bottom to cook properly.  If you do not preheat the cookie sheet, there is no guarantee that the bottom of your pie crust will cook.  So let's just play it safe and preheat the cookie sheet, shall we?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Budget Friendly Dinner Series - Tex-Mex Calzones

What do you think of when someone says, "calzone"?  Italian... pepperoni, mozzarella cheese stretching out from the piece in your hand to the piece now in your mouth?  Seinfeld perhaps?

I highly doubt you think of Tex-Mex when it comes to calzones.  Truth be told, neither did I.  Until I found this recipe that is.  I actually adapted this recipe from a recipe I found in Cooking Light.  I'm not the biggest fan salsa verde or ground chicken so I wanted to change it up a bit.  I made this recipe a few times until I finally found the recipe I make today!  And now I share it with you so you can make it tonight.

Tex-Mex Calzones
original recipe by Cooking Light, adapted by me!

1 Pillsbury Ready-Made Pie Crust (use the kind in the box in the biscuit section of your grocery store)
Bottle of your favorite Salsa (I use Pace Restaurant Style)
1/4 - 1/3 c. Shredded Mexican Cheese
1/2 pound Ground Chicken
Tortilla Chips

Cook your ground chicken until no longer pink.
While your chicken is cooking, preheat your oven and allow your pie crust to come to room temp as per the directions on the pie crust box.
Add in half a cup of salsa.
Roll out your pie crust.
Pour your salsa-chicken mixture onto one half of the pie crust, leaving a one inch space between the edge of the pie crust and the chicken.
Top with cheese (add as much or as little as you'd like).
Fold the other half of the pie crust over the chicken mixture.
Seal closed with a fork or your fingers.
Cut three vent holes into the top of the pie crust with a knife.
Bake in your preheated oven for 12-15 minutes.
Serve with the remainder of the salsa and chips and enjoy!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Budget Friendly Dinner Series - Jambalaya & Corn Muffins

Wow, it's been awhile since I've posted on here.  My sincerest apologies but I CAN EXPLAIN!  First off, Ryan and I moved into our new house!  Yay!  *claps* *jumps up and down excitedly*  Moving involves all sorts of things like packing and more packing.  Did I mention packing?  Oh and we also had a wedding to go to down in Texas in the midst of all the packing and moving and unpacking.  So, of course, I blame everyone else =D  That's just what I do.  Anyhoo, just because I've been surrounded by so many cardboard boxes that I thought I lived in one, didn't mean that I wasn't baking.  Oh I was baking - I just wasn't posting.  Bad Jamie, I know.  You'll be bombarded with posts and then you'll be sick of me (well, maybe not "bombarded" but you get the idea). 

I've made a decision... *drumroll please*... to begin posting a few of my budget friendly dinners that I tend to make all the time.  And I mean, ALL THE TIME.  Usually my budget friendly dinners are quite good if I do say so myself and Ryan loves them.  So to start off our new series, we're going to begin with one Ryan's favorites, Jamie's Jambalaya (I can call it "Jamie's" because I came up with the recipe.  All by myself.  Do I get a gold star?).  The recipe below makes a lot of jambalaya.  There is usually enough for Ryan and I have to eat for dinner and have two or three servings for lunches during the week!  This is also very HUSBAND FRIENDLY.  That's right ladies, it's so simple your husband can make it (I should know, I made Ryan make it once and he completed it with no problem).  And because I love this recipe and I love Seinfeld, I must include the following clip:
(yes, we actually do pronounce "jambalaya" the same way Newman does when we eat it.)

To go along with my jambalaya, I've included this recipe for corn muffins which has become one of my absolute favorites!  Corn muffins go so well with almost anything.  They go great with barbecue (I'm actually going to have some with my barbecue spaghetti this week!)... grilled anything... pork chops.  The list goes on.  I hope you enjoy not only the corn muffins but the new series as well!!

Budget Friendly Dinner Series -
Jamie's Jambalaya
recipe developed by yours truly.

1 Link Butterball Turkey Smoked Sausage (feel free to substitute some Hillshire Farms regular Smoked Sausage instead of the turkey but only use HALF of the Hillshire Farms link)
1/2 lb. Uncooked Shrimp, tails removed
1 - 14 oz. can Chicken Broth
1 can Rotel Tomatoes and Diced Chiles (any heat you like)
1 small can Tomato Sauce
2 c. MINUTE White Rice (please, for the love of all that's holy, don't get regular long grain rice - I made that mistake once *shudders*)
Cajun Seasoning, to taste

Cut smoked sausage into bite size pieces and slice the shrimp in half.
In a nonstick pan, over medium heat, gentle cook the smoked sausage until heated through.
Add chicken broth, tomato sauce, and Rotel.  Stir to combine.
Add shrimp and Cajun Seasoning and increase heat to high.
Bring to a boil and stir in the Minute Rice.
Once your rice mixture comes to a boil, cover and remove from heat.  Let stand for at least five minutes (longer is okay).
Stir and serve!

Corn Muffins
recipe courtesy of Uncle Bubba's Savannah Seafood

1 c. Self Rising Yellow Cornmeal*
3/4 c. Self Rising Flour*
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 c. Canola Oil (or Vegetable Oil)
2 Eggs
1 c. Sour Cream
1 - 8 oz. can Cream-Style Corn

Preheat oven to 375.
In a bowl, stir together the flour and cornmeal and salt.
In a different bowl, combine the oil, eggs, and sour cream until well blended.
Stir in your corn to the wet mixture.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until well mixed.
Pour the batter into a muffin pan that's been sprayed with cooking spray.
Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until golden brown.

TIP:  When the muffins are done, tilt the muffins on their side in the muffin pan to prevent them from steaming in the pan and getting a wet bottom.

* - If you can't find self-rising cornmeal, use 3/4 cup + 3 Tbsp. yellow cornmeal plus 1 Tbsp. baking powder.  Increase the salt to 1 tsp.  For self-rising flour, use 3/4 cup all purpose flour plus 1 1/8 tsp. baking powder.