Thursday, December 29, 2011

A look back at 2011

I love watching the year in review type stories that are everywhere this time of the year. I'm always amazed at all the things that happen in that 365 days. This is my look back at the year that was...through food of course. So here's my Top Ten list based on post popularity from the past year. I had fun flipping back through this year of baking, I hope you enjoy it too.

Brownie sundae bowls

Best Ever Carrot Cupcakes

Zucchini Corn Bread

Fresh Fig Preserves

Two-Bite Smores


Watermelon Lemonade Slushy

Strawberry Honey Butter

Nutella Truffles

1. And now for the number one viewed post this year, taking it by a landslide.....drum roll please!

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Dip
Here's to 2012! I hope you'll join me for another year of baking and eating. Happy New Year!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Morning Coffee

If you're anything like me,  morning coffee knows no holiday. I want my mug of piping hot coffee first thing everyday. Christmas morning is no exception. In fact, I think it's just a good excuse to kick that ordinary cup jo up a notch. So just because Starbucks is closed, (or at least I hope they are!) doesn't mean you have to settle for an ordinary cup of coffee on Christmas morning. Add a shot of this gingerbread syrup, a glug or two of warm milk, a spritz of whipped cream, a sprinkle of cinnamon and you'll never miss Starbucks!

It would make a great gift as well!

Gingerbread Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1(1-2 inch) piece fresh ginger root, sliced*
1 cinnamon stick, broken into large pieces
6 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
8 whole peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine water, sugar. Stir in ginger, cinnamon stick, cloves, allspice, peppercorns, and nutmeg; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool then strain through a fine mesh sieve, or double layer cheesecloth.

*My sister introduced me to gingerbread syrup. I've made it a few times and like this recipe best. Feel free to add more or less of any of the spices to suit your tastes. You could substitute the fresh ginger with 1 1/2 -2 teaspoons of ground ginger or several pieces of crystallized ginger.  Don't just save this syrup for your coffee, it's also great on pancakes, yogurt, oatmeal, etc....
Merry Christmas!!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Red Velvet Cookies

 Red velvet and Christmas are a perfect combo in my world. I mean what could be more perfect for Christmas celebration than a bright red cake topped with a luscious creamy white frosting? It's a decadent treat with colors that are tailor made for the season. I've had the recipe for these cookies dogeared in my copy of Taste of the South magazine since last year. I thought they looked like a perfect Christmas cookie. I'm so glad I finally tried this recipe. They are everything wonderful about red velvet cake, in a cookie. I think that I even like them a little better than red velvet cake. The cookies are rolled in sugar before they are baked which gives the outside just a slight crunch, that's so good. ( I'm not just saying that to sound like Giada ,it really is good, but I'm pretty sure she'd also approve of the slight crunch on the outside.)
 If you like red velvet cake these cookies will not disappoint. Plus they how perfect are they for serving at a holiday party??!

Red Velvet Cookies
Printable Recipe

For the cookies:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Red gel food coloring

In a large bowl, beat butter and 1 cup sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer. Add egg and vanilla, beating until well blended.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
Add flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time to butter mixture, beating well after each addition. Add desired amount of red gel food coloring, stirring well. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Using your hands, roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Roll balls in remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets; flatten slightly with a spatula.
Bake until slightly soft, 7 to 9 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks, and let cool completely. Spread cream cheese frosting on flat side of 1 cookie. Top with another cookie, flat side toward filling. Repeat with remaining cookies and filling.

Cream cheese frosting filling:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until creamy. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, beating well. (I put green gel coloring into half of the cream cheese frosting and left half white.)

Source: Taste of the South, Dec/Jan 2011

Hohoho yeah!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving recipe round-up

Looking for some last minute Thanksgiving recipes or inspiration? Here's a round-up of a few of my favorite dishes for Thanksgiving.

My personal favorite cranberry sauce!
Pieces of fresh apple and rosemary make this a perfect Thanksgiving day bread.

Sweet Potato Curry Yeast Rolls
A nice change from your average yeast rolls...perfect with  turkey!

So easy and delicious!

Because you just can't get enough pumpkin on Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin, apples, cranberries, pecans, and spices make this the perfect Thanksgiving cake!

Apples and praline...nuff said!

Apple crack.

Pecan and chocolate chip mini pies...the perfect size pie for entertaining!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cranberry Salsa

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I wanted to post this cranberry salsa. At my families Thanksgiving Day celebration, we prepare pretty much the same meal every year. It's sort of the unwritten law that foods can be added but none of the traditional dishes can be left off the menu from year to year. Everyone in the family has his or her favorite that must be included. This is even true with our cranberry sauces. We have some that want the kind from a can, others that demand a fresh cranberry relish, and some (me) that love this hot cranberry rum relish. I'm sure that this salsa would be wonderful with the Thanksgiving meal, but we already have more than enough cranberry sauces on our table. So I'm not going to make this one for Thanksgiving Day. No this salsa has an even higher calling. If you're from Alabama, or pretty much anywhere in the South, you already know that THE most important football game of the year is played the Saturday after Thanksgiving. No, the Super Bowl isn't being played early this year. This game is waaayy more important than the Super Bowl here in Alabama. It's the day the Iron Bowl is played, Alabama vs. Auburn, with a year of bragging rights at stake. If you are a native Alabamian, you're pretty much born into allegiance to one or the other of these two teams. While the game is being played, everything else is put on hold for those 3 or so hours. With a game of this significance, of course tailgating food is required. So whether you are an Auburn or Alabama fan or a fan of some other team that plays a game after Thanksgiving, this cranberry salsa is great for game day. If football isn't your thing, and you couldn't care less who wins the Iron Bowl (gasp! sacrilege!!) this spicy/sweet cranberry salsa would be divine on a sandwich of leftover turkey and sharp cheddar cheese...drool!
This salsa is the perfect addition to any holiday party!

Cranberry Salsa
Printable recipe

1 (12-oz.) package fresh or frozen cranberries
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 navel orange, peeled and coarsely chopped
2/3 cup sugar
2 green onions, roughly chopped
2 jalapeƱo peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped crystallized ginger
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro*

1. Pulse cranberries in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a bowl.
2. Pulse orange zest and next 6 ingredients in food processor 3 to 5 times or until orange, ginger, and pepper are finely chopped. Stir into cranberries; cover and chill 2 to 24 hours.
*Make Ahead: Prepare recipe as directed, omitting fresh cilantro. Freeze in an airtight container up to 1 month. Thaw in refrigerator overnight. Stir in cilantro just before serving.

Source: Southern Living Nov. 2011 (adapted)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Best Ever Carrot Cake Cupcakes

A few years ago I made some cupcakes for a friend and somehow that turned into a full time job! These days I make a lot of cupcakes. I'm always on the lookout for new ideas or improvements on old recipes. I had been using a carrot cake cupcake recipe from a well known cupcake cookbook, (that shall remain nameless) and it was good. Adequate...tasty enough but nothing to write home about. Earlier this week I was asked to make some carrot cake cupcakes so I started Googling recipes and came across this one. The name grabbed me right away, The Best Ever Carrot Cake Cupcakes. That was exactly what I wanted. Not just it's an okay, tastes pretty good, carrot cupcake but The Best EVER! With pineapple and applesauce in the batter, I knew these would be a super moist cupcake. I decided to top them with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Guess what?? These really are The Best Ever carrot cake cupcakes.
I may still look to perfect other cupcake recipes but my search for the perfect carrot cake cupcake is over.

Best Ever Carrot Cake Cupcakes


4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup apple sauce
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 8-oz. can of crushed pineapple, well drained
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Small pinch of ground cloves
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup chopped pecans

For Frosting:

1/2 cup butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Toasted pecans, chopped (optional for garnish)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, apple sauce, sugars, pineapple and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and small pinch of ground cloves. Stir in carrots. Fold in pecan. Line a muffin tin with cupcake wrappers. Fill each liner 3/4 full. Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 min. Let cupcakes cool completely. While cooling, prepare frosting.

In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add milk a tablespoon at a time, if needed to get a smooth consistency. Top with the toasted chopped pecans.

Source: Paula Deen for Smithfield

A perfect dessert for Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pecan and Chocolate Chip Mini Pies

Sorry for the long absence from posting here. Other parts of my life have had to take precedence over blogging, as of late. As much as I love both baking and blogging, I've had to put things on hold somewhat for the time being. Hopefully life will return to some form of normalcy very soon. Until then I'll do the best I can to share as often as I can. By the way pecan pie is great comfort food!

Pecan pie ranks right near the top of my favorite desserts. I'm pretty much a pecan pie purist. I don't usually  like to mess around with the traditional pecan pie I grew up eating. I posted that recipe here, way back when I first started this blog. It will always be a favorite of mine but decided to try something different this time. I mean pecans and chocolate are a match made in heaven, so I broke with tradition and have to say I was not disappointed. These little pies are very tasty. Mini pies are the perfect single serving and would be great for entertaining.

I discovered Lyle's syrups a couple of years ago and love the flavor. The golden syrup is great in all kinds of baking and can be used a substitute for corn syrup in many recipes. I highly recommend using it for this pie but if you can't find it you can use a light corn syrup instead.

Pecan and Chocolate Chip Mini Pies
Printable recipe

Your favorite recipe for a single crust pie, dough chilled. I like the crust from this pie. You could also use a refrigerated store bought pie crust.

For the filling:
3 large eggs
¾ cup Lyle's Golden Syrup*
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cups pecan halves, or coarsely chopped pecans
1 cup of semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 400°F, and place a large baking sheet on the bottom rack.

Roll out the crust to ¼" thickness. Cut the crust into 6" circles using a pastry cutter, and press each circle into a mini pie pan or a jumbo muffin tin.* If you don't have a 6" round pastry cutter divide your dough into 6 equal pieces and roll out each individual piece into a 6" or larger, ¼"-thick round. Press them into the pans.

Refrigerate the pan until the filling is ready.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, syrup, sugar, melted butter, salt, and vanilla.
Divide the chocolate chips evenly among the pies, sprinkling them  into the bottom of each pie.
Pour 1/3-1/2 cup of filling into each of the pies. Divide the pecans evenly among the cups, sprinkling them over the filling. Fill each pie or muffin tin about 3/4 to the top. Don't fill to the pies very top of the pie pan.These pies puff up a good bit while cooking and will cook out if overfilled.

Place the mini pie pans or muffin tin on the heated sheet pan, and bake for 15 minutes; then reduce the oven temperature to 300°F and bake for another 20 minutes or until the centers of the pies are set.
Remove from the oven, and cool the mini pies completely in the pan before removing them and serving.

Yield: 6 mini pies or jumbo muffin size pies. 8-10 regular muffin sized pies.

source: King Arthur Flour Recipes

*you can also make these using a regular muffin tin but will need to adjust the cooking time slightly. I baked these  for the first 10 minutes at 400 degrees and 15-17 minutes at 300 degrees.

I made a few in a regular size muffin tin. Perfect party sized pie!
Come join Love the Pie with TidyMom  sponsored by Cherokee USALe CreusetWilton,Bags by Bloom and  Harvard Common Press

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Saltine Toffee Bars

AKA: crack

Seriously this stuff should probably come with a warning. I've heard that some people become addicted to crack after just one use. I don't know about crack, but these toffee bars had me addicted after just one bite. They are sweet, salty, chocolatly, caramley, short, delicious! Everything that I love about toffee with the added salty crunch from the saltine cracker. The list of ingredients for these bars may leave you somewhat unimpressed. If you've never had them before, you maybe be thinking; saltine crackers, really?!? I know, it's kind of odd and  not a very exciting sounding ingredient. I've heard these bars referred to as trailer trash toffee. If you make them, you'll wonder how you've lived your life without them and won't care what they're called.
Most times in baking, you have to put in a good bit of time/effort to achieve results this scrumptious. Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately!) these saltine toffee bars are so easy and quick to make, you can feed your addiction anytime.

Saltine Toffee Bars

1-1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil and spraying the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

 Arrange the crackers in a single layer on the baking sheet so that there are no empty spaces in between them. Crush a few remaining crackers into small crumbs, to be used as topping, and set aside for now.
 Place the butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir while the butter melts, and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Once boiling, carefully pour the sugar-butter mixture over the crackers on the baking sheet in an even layer, trying to cover most of the crackers. If you miss some spots, don’t worry as the toffee will spread in the oven.

Bake the toffee crackers at 350 degrees for five minutes, until the toffee is bubbling all over. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for one minute.
Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of the hot toffee, and allow them to sit for one minute to soften and melt. Once softened, use an offset spatula or knife to spread the melted chocolate over the entire surface of the toffee in an even layer. 

While the chocolate is still sticky, sprinkle the top with the reserved crushed crackers, chopped nuts, sprinkles or any combination of the three.
Top the bars with nuts, crushed crackers, even sprinkles!

Topped with yellow and orange sprinkles, they're perfect for Fall/Halloween parties!

Refrigerate the pan to set the toffee and chocolate for about 30 minutes. Once set, break into small uneven pieces by hand, and enjoy! Store uneaten saltine toffee in an airtight container for up to a week.

Just don't blame me if you find yourself addicted!