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Sassafras Cafe





Updated: 2018-03-06T13:03:46.334-05:00

 



Banana Pancakes with Caramel-Banana Syrup

2010-05-28T15:46:26.820-04:00

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My husband is usually the Pancake Man at our house, most often gracing us with his delicious sour cream pancakes and blueberry compote on the weekends, but every once in a while I like to try my hand at a new pancake recipe like these Banana Pancakes with Caramel-Banana Syrup.

Stop for a moment; look at the picture below and contemplate that banana slice soaking in a rich buttery caramel syrup.

Try not to lick the screen...


Banana Pancakes with Caramel-Banana Syrup

3 large bananas, peeled, divided use
1/2 cup butter, melted, divided
3/4 cup brown sugar, tightly packed, divided use
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups self-rising flour
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
Additional melted butter

For syrup, slice 2 of the bananas into 1/4"-rounds. Combine 1/4 cup melted butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a large skillet. Over medium-high heat, boil the banana mixture until it begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla and sliced bananas.

Whisk flour and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a large bowl. In a separate medium-sized bowl, mash remaining banana. Add buttermilk and eggs and whisk until thoroughly combined. Stir banana mixture into the flour mixture just until combined. A few lumps will remain. Add remaining melted butter and gently stir until incorporated.

Preheat griddle to medium-high heat and brush the griddle with additional melted butter. Drop batter by 1/3-cupfuls onto heated griddle and cook until pancakes are golden, about 2 minutes per side. Pancakes can be kept warm on a baking sheet in a preheated 200-degree oven.
Serve with warm caramel-banana syrup.
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Ice Cream Sandwiches

2010-04-06T17:08:00.950-04:00

(image) It is hard to improve upon something as notoriously delicious as the Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookie (as in the recipe that comes from Neiman Marcus' very own cookbook), but a little dressing up never hurt.

When baking the cookies, I made them a little smaller than usual. After they completely cooled, I topped one cookie with a dollop of Haagen Dazs Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream. After placing another cookie on top of the ice cream, I lightly pressed the cookies together to help spread the ice cream to the edge of the cookie.
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As a finishing touch, I gave the edges of the cookie sandwich a frolic in a bowl of sprinkles and left them to harden in the freezer. Ready to eat now...or later. For this batch, at least, the cookie sandwiches will be on a mission to welcome my new neighbors.
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Cashew Chicken

2010-02-12T11:06:20.338-05:00

I remember learning to cook Asian-themed food in the early nineties, carefully following every step from the recipes in my Better Homes and Garden red and white-checked cookbook. Looking back, I'm not sure what convinced me of BH&G's authority on Asian food, but it worked at the time. The Asian food honeymoon came to an abrupt halt after a brief experience with an unfortunate hot and sour soup. The soup recipe was decent enough, but the shrimp I used were questionable. The resulting soup was enough to squelch any Asian recipe ambitions, and my husband chimed in by discouraging me from ever trying to cook Asian food again. Twenty years have passed, and I am once again becoming curious about making good Asian food like Miso soup, Hot and Sour Soup, and Kung Pao Beef. This recipe for Cashew Chicken is a perfect easy primer to the world of Asian food. The prep is quick, and the ingredient list is supermarket friendly. No oriental markets required. Best of all, it found approval at my dinner table, a remarkable feat after 20 years of an Asian-cooking-free kitchen!Cashew Chickenadapted from Everyday Food1 1/2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces2 TBS dry sherry2 tsp minced, peeled fresh ginger3 1/2 tsp cornstarch, divided use1/2 cup chicken broth2 TBS soy sauce1 TBS rice vinegar2 tsp sugar1 TBS plus 2 tsp vegetable oil2 garlic cloves, minced2/3 cup unsalted cashews2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced1/2 cup sliced water chestnutsCooked white rice, for servingIn a medium bowl, toss chicken pieces with sherry, ginger, and 1 1/2 tsp corn starch. Allow mixture to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes while you prepare the sauce.Combine chicken broth, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and remaining 2 tsp cornstarch in a medium bowl. Set aside.Heat 1 TBS oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of chicken to hot skillet, and cook until golden brown, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate, covering the plate to keep the chicken warm. Heat 1 tsp oil in skillet and cook remaining chicken. Reduce heat to medium if chicken browns too quickly. Remove chicken to plate and keep warm.Heat remaining 1 tsp oil in the skillet and add garlic, cashews, and scallions, stirring until garlic begins to soften, about 30 seconds. Add chicken to skillet, along with water chestnuts. Whisk sauce mixture and pour into skillet, stirring until thickened, about 30 seconds. Serve with rice. [...]



Linguine with Sausage and Mushrooms

2010-01-07T14:23:17.760-05:00

Knock knock... Are you still there? 'Cause I'm still here. Still cooking, still eating, still talking about silly stuff, still taking pictures. Thanks for visiting my little corner of the world.Over ten years ago, Victoria, one of the beautiful moms in my daughter's playgroup, told me about this pasta and sausage dish. Victoria was always clipping recipes and trying new things, and I knew whatever she recommended would be a winner. Blustery cold nights are perfect for a hearty helping of linguine swimming with sauteed mushrooms and Italian sausage. Add a French loaf and a green salad, and you have a meal. Linguine with Sausage and Mushrooms1/4 c unsalted butter1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced1 TBS chopped fresh thyme2 cups chicken broth2 cups beef broth3/4 lb Italian sausage links, hot or mild or mixture of both9 oz. package fresh linguineMelt butter in heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and saute until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add thyme and continue sauteing a minute more. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.In a heavy large and shallow saucepan, bring chicken and beef broths to a rolling boil. Add sausage links, reduce heat, and simmer until cooked through, about 12 minutes. Using tongs, remove sausage from broth. Remove the sausage casings and cut the links into 1/2" slices.Meanwhile, bring broth back to a boil and continue boiling until it is reduced to 2 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes. Add fresh linguine to broth and cook until tender, but firm. Do not drain. Add mushrooms and sausage to pasta and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.*If you cannot find fresh linguine, usually in the refrigerated section of your grocer, dried pasta will work, as long as you are careful not to overcook it. As for the sausage, I especially love using the hot and spicy Italian sausage, but milder varieties are delicious, too.[...]



Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes

2010-02-28T19:17:19.464-05:00

My October installment in the Martha Stewart Cupcake Club included these Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes. I greatly preferred the flavor and texture of September's Zucchini Spice Cupcakes, but I enjoyed the challenge of tackling my first ever decorative marzipan project.With sources online, I studied the art of making little pumpkins from marzipan, which was much like playing with Play-Dough, only messier. I dug through the little boxes on the top shelf of my pantry until I found the stash of Wilton cake decorating supplies that had been hiding out since the mid-nineties, when I attended Wilton cake decorating classes.My dear friend, Kristina, and I took the class together. A charming and beautiful wife of a minister, Kristina stands for everything classy and southern. She was a wedding planner who owned an event planning business.After our first couple of Wilton lessons, the teacher started teaching about all the ways we could make money decorating cakes, which ones sold best, were the easiest to complete and most cost effective. "First of all," she said, "you need to make sure you have grass tips. Those are great for making adult cakes."Kristina and I, ever innocent, began to let our minds wander to 30th birthday cakes, Valentine's cakes, over-the-hill cakes, and such. Until then, we had focused mainly on achieving a nice smooth finish on our cakes and making flowers, so the thought of something more than roses and daisies excited us.The instructor continued, "You know, b**b cakes and things like that. Those are the biggest money makers." *crickets chirping*I'm sure the instructor noticed our "deer-caught-in-the-headlight" look, which she interpreted as a lack of understanding. To help it all make sense to us, she began to name every possible variations of the adult cake, which cake pans to use for each body part, and the array of functions for grass tips.She spoke quickly and passionately, leaving little room for either of us to interject a statement about just wanting to make cakes for our church friends. Being a giggler who always laughs at the wrong moment, my whole body shook under the table as I tried to control my nervous laughter.Only one mention of adult cakes would have been tolerable, but the discussion went on and on. And on into every lesson thereafter. Each week we were reminded about the versatility of grass tips, although we confidently assured her we were not interested in the adult cake industry. To this day, the mention of grass tips can send Kristina and me into uproarious laughter.The moral of this story? Cake decorating is fun, especially when you share it with a friend! Just make sure you have those grass tips...The recipe comes from Martha Stewart Cupcakes, and while we've been asked not to share the recipe on our blogs, if you're really desperate the recipe can be found elsewhere on the internet. Save yourself the hunt, though, and purchase one of these books for yourself. It is a little pot of gold for cupcake lovers.[...]



Caramel Walnut Brownies

2009-11-02T15:07:01.711-05:00

Are you sitting down? Because I am about to share THE most requested recipe I have ever made. Never, in the history of my time in the kitchen, have I found a recipe that elicits such an overwhelming response as these. To make the recipe even sweeter, it is extremely simple to make. I've made it so many times in the last 13 years that I can almost whip up a batch of these Caramel Walnut Brownies with my eyes closed.There is a catch, though. One of the recipe ingredients can be downright impossible to find, but fortunately the internet makes finding most any ingredient possible.The mystery ingredient?I have unsuccessfully searched the aisles of grocery stores in 6 different states. The past 6 years I have had to order it in bulk from amazon.com.What is it? Duncan Hines Caramel Cake Mix!!Rarely do I use a cake mix because I enjoy the process of baking things from scratch, but on this recipe, nothing but a caramel cake mix will do. I have even tried making a homemade caramel cake, but it just fails to match up to the flavor and texture of the brownies when they are made with cake mix. Can you find this cake mix where you live? Caramel Walnut Browniesadapted from Southern Living 14-oz. bag caramels5-oz can of evaporated milk, divided use1 box Duncan Hines Caramel Cake Mix1 tsp cinnamon12 TBS butter, melted2 tsp vanilla extract1 1/2 cups walnutsPreheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9X9-inch pan and set aside.Place the caramels in a microwave-safe bowl and add 1/3 cup of the evaporated milk. Microwave for 1 minute on high and stir to combine. Continue microwaving on high at 30-second intervals, stirring each time, until the caramel and milk are melted, smooth, and combined. Set aside.In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, cinnamon, butter, vanilla, and remaining 1/3 cup evaporated milk. Stir just until combined. Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Don't worry about being exact when dividing the cake batter. Set the remaining cake batter aside. It will firm as it sits.Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. At this time, I also like to spread the walnuts onto a shallow pan and toast them while the cake is baking. Remove the walnuts from the oven when they are fragrant and golden brown.Allow the cake to cool for 5 minutes. Pour melted caramel over the semi-baked batter and evenly sprinkle the toasted walnuts on top. Take large spoonfuls of the remaining batter, approximately 1/3 cup, which is now firm, and press it between the palms of your hands. Pat it as thinly as possible without breaking it apart. Lay the batter on top of the walnuts. Continue patting the batter and placing it on top of the walnuts. There might be some overlapping of the batter, and there might be several spots where the caramel barely peeks through. Precision is not necessary.Bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool in pan on a wire rack. It is helpful to refrigerate the brownies before cutting them into squares. These freeze well, and they make great treats to mail. In short, they are perfect Christmas goodies![...]



Black Bean Mole and Coconut Couscous

2009-10-23T13:56:23.096-04:00

(image) I pulled this recipe out of a Pillsbury Bake-Off cookbook years ago, and it has survived the test of time at our house. I love the crunch and unexpected taste of coconut in the couscous, and the ease of preparation makes this dish as fun to make as it is to eat. While this could easily stand alone as an entree, I usually serve it with grilled chicken seasoned with fajita seasoning.

Black Bean Mole and Coconut Couscous

for the couscous
1 cup uncooked couscous
1/2 cup coconut, toasted
1/2 tsp cinnamon

for the mole
1 TBS olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 (15-oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (16-oz) jar salsa
1 1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon

for the topping
4 oz (1 cup) shredded Colby-Monterrey Jack cheese
6 TBS sour cream
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped

Cook couscous according to package directions. Add toasted coconut and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Cover and set aside, keeping warm until ready to use.

Heat olive oil in saucepan over medium heat. Saute garlic in hot oil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add remaining mole ingredients to saucepan and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally until some of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes.

To serve, fluff couscous with a fork, and spoon the couscous onto a serving platter to make the foundation of the dish. Top with the black bean mixture and garnish with cheese, sour cream, green onions, and tomatoes. My photograph above shows an individual serving size.(image)



Caramel Popcorn

2009-10-13T07:26:29.911-04:00

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A favorite family treat, Caramel Popcorn often finds its way into our hands on the weekends, especially if we plan to watch movies at home. When I make a batch, which is huge, I like to bag up a few gift bags for friends or teachers. I stow the bags of popcorn in my oversized purse and pull out little surprises to brighten someone's day.

Making the Caramel Popcorn is a cinch, but it does require a little time. First you must pop the corn and boil the sugar syrup. Then you bake the coated corn for an hour to achieve snacking nirvana! If you can make homemade Chex Mix, you are completely qualified for making Caramel Popcorn.

Caramel Popcorn
adapted from
allrecipes.com

7 quarts popped popcorn (about 1 cup kernels)
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract

Divide the popped popcorn between two 13X9-inch greased pans and set aside.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, salt, and butter in a large saucepan and stir to combine. Over medium-high heat, bring mixture to a boil and boil for 5 minutes while stirring constantly.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla. Mixture will bubble, but continue stirring until thoroughly combined. Quickly pour the sugar mixture over the popped popcorn, drizzling the mixture as evenly as possible. Carefully stir the popcorn to coat as much as much as possible, but don't worry if every piece of popcorn isn't coated.

Bake for one hour, stirring to coat every 15 minutes. Remove popcorn from oven and spoon out onto a piece of wax paper. Allow to cool completely, and break apart any big chunks. Store in an airtight container or resealable bag.

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Split Level Pudding

2009-10-06T21:47:54.430-04:00

I have a couple of friends who have "texture issues," whatever that means. Usually it keeps them from enjoying things with either too much texture or not enough texture, which seems like it seriously limits their list of foods to enjoy. It is a good thing they are such sweet ladies. Perhaps I can overlook our textural differences...If I could try to convince these friends to enjoy only one type of food, it would be this wonderful Split Level Pudding which combines two different creamy textures in one dessert. The bottom layer of the dessert is a rich chocolate ganache, silky and velvety, while the top layer is a vanilla pudding boasting a nostalgic air. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. It is quite possibly one of my favorite desserts ever.The only alteration I made to Dorie's original recipe was to double the ganache layer, a beautiful accident, one that I intend to continue making.Split Level Puddingadapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie GreenspanFor the Chocolate Layer2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped1/3 cup heavy cream*to make a happy accident, like I did, double these ingredients to make extra ganacheFor the Vanilla Layer2 1/4 cups whole milk, divided6 TBS sugar, divided3 TBS cornstarch1/4 tsp salt3 large egg yolks2 TBS unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature2 1/2 tsp vanilla extractchocolate shavings for garnish, optionalTo make the chocolate layer: Place the chopped chocolate into a small glass measuring cup. Bring cream to a boil and pour over the chopped chocolate. Allow to rest for a minute, and carefully stir to blend. Evenly divide the chocolate among six ramekins or pudding cups.To make the vanilla layer: Bring 2 cups milk and 3 TBS of the sugar to a boil in a medium-sized, heavy saucepan. Process the cornstarch and salt in a food processor until well blended. Pour onto a piece of wax paper. Put remaining sugar and egg yolks into the processor and blend for a minute. Add remaining 1/4 cup milk, pulsing just until mixed. Add the dry ingredients and pulse a few times.Pour the hot milk mixture into the machine, while it is running, in a very small stream. Return the entire mixture back to the saucepan and whisk over medium heat until pudding thickens, about 2 minutes. Pour pudding back into processor and pulse several times. Add butter and vanilla and blend until everything is thoroughly combined.Pour the vanilla pudding into the ramekins, topping the ganache layer. Cover the puddings with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap against the surface of the pudding. Refrigerate the puddings at least 4 hours and garnish with chocolate shavings, if desired.[...]



Oven Ham Sammies

2009-09-30T22:04:56.129-04:00

(image) Lately, this has been a go-to meal for our Sunday lunch. I prepare the sandwiches the night before and store them in the fridge until we get home from church. Then I slide them into the oven until they are nice and hot, oozing with melted cheese.


(image) Oven Ham Sammies

adapted from Dine and Dish

12 count package King's Hawaiian Rolls

7 TBS butter, melted

1/2 tsp ground mustard

1 tsp poppy seeds

1 tsp onion flakes

1 tsp worcestershire sauce

1 package swiss cheese slices

16 oz. thinly sliced ham

Slice rolls in half horizontally and place the bottom halves in a baking dish. Arrange the ham and cheese on top of the rolls. Place top halves of rolls over the ham and cheese. Combine melted butter, mustard, poppy seeds, onion flakes, and worcestershire sauce. Evenly spoon the butter mixture over the tops of the rolls. Cover the rolls and refrigerate overnight or for several hours.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls for 30 minutes, uncovering after 15 minutes of baking. Serve immediately.
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Blondies

2009-09-24T07:59:53.400-04:00

This past weekend I gathered with some friends for tailgating and an Arkansas Razorback's football game. While the whole event was exciting, I was most excited about the tailgating food. I skimmed and scoured my recipe files, my cookbooks, and my favorite food blogs for quintessential tailgating grub, and then I put together a tasty menu for the event which included my new favorite sweet treat, these atypically delicious blondies. I liked them so well, in fact, that I have already made another batch to share.What makes these distinctive from the boring blondie? It is a combination of several things like golden toasted pecans and a notable presence of brown sugar. The blondies almost taste caramel-esque, even though no caramel is listed in the ingredients. As for texture, the blondies are super chewy, as opposed to their dry, cake-like counterpart. To make the texture even more magnanimous, a thin, crispy layer forms on top while the blondie bakes. Mmmm...this is Hall of Fame stuff. Blondiesadapted from Erin Cooks, who adapted from Cooks Illustrated1 cup pecans or walnuts (4 ounces)1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces)1 teaspoon baking powder1/2 teaspoon table salt12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar (10 1/2 ounces)2 large eggs, lightly beaten4 teaspoons vanilla extract6 ounces white chocolate chips (1 cup) or chopped bar, or 3 ounces each white chocolate and semisweet chocolate chips Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Watch the nuts carefully to avoid burning. Coarsely chop the nuts and allow to cool completely.Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Combine melted butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl, whisking until thoroughly combined. Add eggs and vanilla and continue whisking until incorporated. Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture and combine with a spatula, gently folding the mixture just until all the dry mixture is incorporated; do not overmix. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Spread mixture into a greased 13X9-inch pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake until golden brown and the crust is shiny and cracked, about 22 to 25 minutes. Be careful not to overbake, or blondies will be dry. Allow to cool thoroughly before cutting into squares.[...]



Sgroppino- Venetian Lemon and Strawberry Slush

2009-09-18T08:37:13.937-04:00

What kinds of things are you doing to prepare for the fall? At our house, we are trying to squeeze every last ounce of summer out of our system before the temperatures drop. Once the weather changes, my cooking plans turn to chili, caramel, roasts, and soups, hearty rolls, Christmas goodies, and hot drinks. This Italian Sgroppino is like summer's last hurrah, bold, fresh, and unavoidable. The dessert begins with a tart lemon ice cream made by boiling lemon peels in a sugar syrup. After adding the cream and freezing, the ice cream is whisked with pureed fresh, ripe berries then whisked again with Prosecco until the dessert becomes slushy. The result? Dessert with an exclamation point! I loved the intense bold, clean flavors compared to the sappy sweetness of so many other desserts. I deviated from the recipe in an attempt to make a family-friendly version by using different liquids to make the slush. For the first try, I used sparkling apple cranberry juice, and for the second I used ginger ale, which I thought was delicious. The sparkling apple cranberry juice was much too tart, and it introduced flavors that competed with the lemon and strawberry, but the ginger ale sweetened the Sgroppino while keeping that "party in your mouth" feel.Cooking Italy is a cooking group formed by Angela of Spinach Tiger. We are cooking our way through Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan.Sgroppino- Venetian Lemon and Strawberry Slushadapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella HazanFor the Lemon Ice CreamThe peel of 4 lemons, with none of the white pith beneath, about 1/2 tightly packed cup1 cup plus 2 TBS granulated sugar2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice2/3 cup heavy whipping creamFill a small saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water, and add the lemon peel, sugar, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, strain the peel from the mixture, and pour remaining syrup into a bowl. Refrigerate the syrup until it is completely cold.Whisk the heavy cream into the mixture until thoroughly combined. Pour mixture into an ice cream freezer and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.For the Strawberry Puree2/3 pound very ripe strawberriesRemove and discard the stems and leaves from the berries and wash the berries thoroughly. Puree the berries in a food processor, which should yield about 2 cups of berries. Refrigerate the berries at least 2 hours.For the SgroppinoLemon ice cream and cold strawberries1 1/2 cups sparkling wine (I used ginger ale)Scoop the lemon ice cream into a bowl and break up the ice cream with a large spoon. Add half of the strawberry puree and whisk the mixture until combined. Add half the liquid, whisking several times Add the remaining strawberries and liquid, whisking until the mixture becomes soft and foamy. Do not over- whisk, or the mixture will become too liquid. Serve at once.Yield 8 servings.[...]



Martha Stewart Cupcakes: Zucchini-Spice Cupcakes

2009-09-15T16:30:29.076-04:00

(image) This month's MSC challenge was chosen by Tracey's Culinary Adventures.

The perfect foil for a dreary, rainy day comes in the form of cupcakes. These Zucchini-Spice cupcakes happen to be particularly delightful with their dollop of an elusively perfect cream cheese frosting, which just so happens to be have the flawless blend of tang and sweetness. All too often, cream cheese frostings are rancidly sweet, but that is not the case here.

(image) The recipe comes from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes, and while we've been asked not to share the recipe on our blogs, if you're really desperate, the recipe is posted elsewhere on the internet. Save yourself the hunt, though, and purchase one of these books for yourself. It is a little pot of gold for cupcake lovers.
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Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies

2009-09-07T15:29:48.432-04:00

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Chocolate chip cookie recipes are a dime a dozen when it comes to food blogs, and everyone thinks their recipe is the best chocolate chip cookie ever made. I will promise none of that, for there is no need. The recipe speaks for itself- The Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookie. This is not the urban myth recipe allegedly costing one customer hundreds of dollars; instead the recipe comes from the hallowed Neiman Marcus Cookbook.


What makes this recipe delicious? Perfect proportions of sugar and flour with an underlying note of coffee flavor. Somehow the cookie manages to be both crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Dare I say perfect?


Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Neiman Marcus Cookbook

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar, tightly packed
3 TBL granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 tsp instant espresso coffee powder*

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream butter and sugars together in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Beat in egg and vanilla and continue mixing for 30 seconds, until well combined.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips and coffee powder.

Scoop dough with a small cookie scoop onto a greased cookie sheet. Gently press the dough down with the back of a spoon to slightly spread out the dough. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cookies are beginning to brown around the edges. Remove from oven and allow the cookies to rest for 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

*Since instant espresso powder can be difficult to find, I substitute instant coffee, finely ground with a mortar and pestle, and then measured into dough.
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Bistec Pedazos on Roasted Corn and Garlic Chipotle Mashers

2009-09-03T13:32:19.067-04:00

Think Mexi-Texi roast beef. Think smoky spicy smashed red potatoes with roasted corn. Then stop thinking and start cooking. Bistec Pedazos on Roasted Corn and Garlic Chipotle Mashersadapted from Southern Living3 lb. beef chuck roast1 1/2 tsp salt, divided use1/2 tsp ground black pepper3 TBS vegetable oil3/4 cup all-purpose flour2 tsp chili powder2 tsp oregano leaves2 tsp ground cumin1/2 tsp ground chipotle chile pepper1 cup warm water2 cups beef brothRoasted Corn and Garlic Chipotle Mashers (recipe below)Garnishes (optional): sour cream, chopped cilantro, sliced avocadoCut roast into 2" pieces. Sprinkle beef with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Preheat vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Brown roast, stirring pieces every few minutes to make sure all sides are browned.In a large bowl combine flour, chili powder, oregano, cumin, chipotle chili pepper, and 1 tsp salt. Add one cup of warm water to the mixture and whisk until the mixture is smooth and free of lumps. Pour beef broth into Dutch oven, followed by the flour mixture. With heat on high, bring the broth mixture to a boil and stir until fully combined. With Dutch oven covered, reduce heat to low and simmer to 3 hours. Meat will be fork tender. Be sure to stir the meat mixture every 20 minutes while it is simmering to keep the beef from sticking to the bottom of the pot.To serve, spoon a serving of potatoes onto a plate and top with several chunks of roast. Spoon gravy over the top. To garnish, spoon some sour cream on top of the beef and sprinkle with cilantro. Perch a thin slice of avocado on top of the sour cream.Roasted Corn and Garlic Chipotle Mashers1 garlic bulb2 TBS olive oil3 ears fresh corn2 lb red potatoes, cut into 2" cubes3/4 cup sour cream4 TBS butter1/2 cup milk1 1/2 tsp salt1 canned chipotle in adobo sauce, finely chopped1 tsp adobo sauce from can1 tsp pepper (While roast is cooking)Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice off the pointed tip of the garlic bulb and place garlic on a piece of foil. Drizzle 1 TBS olive oil over the garlic and wrap the bulb tightly in foil. Shuck corn and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle corn with 1 TBS olive oil.Bake garlic for 1 hour. After 15 minutes, add the corn to the oven, and bake with garlic 45 minutes. Allow the garlic and corn to cool until easy to handle. Squeeze pulp from the garlic cloves, reserving half of the pulp and saving the other half for another use. Slice kernels from corn cob.Cook potatoes in salted boiling water for 15-20 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain and return to pan.In a small saucepan, combine garlic pulp, sour cream, butter, and remaining ingredients and whisk until combined. Heat over medium heat until butter melts.Crush potatoes lightly. Add garlic mixture and continue mashing until potatoes are coarsely mashed and garlic mixture is completely blended. Stir in reserved corn.[...]



Espresso Cheesecake Brownies

2009-09-01T17:13:56.708-04:00

(image) This Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was chosen by Melissa of Life in a Peanut Shell, and you can find the recipe here or in Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking: From My Home to Yours.

I don't know who sits around and makes up these shamefully decadent desserts, but whoever you are, I thank you from the bottom of my heart! Who would think that a creamy coffee-flavored cheesecake would want to partner with a brownie- or a topping for that matter? It seemed delicious enough on its own, not that I sampled the batter containing raw eggs. No, not me...

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What was already delicious became epic once the cheesecake nestled into a fudge brownie and received a crown of cream and sugar.
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Sausage Stars

2009-08-29T20:33:24.952-04:00

For some reason, my husband thinks it is necessary to be part of two separate fantasy football teams this year. Anyone out there feel my pain? Fortunately, both teams are filled with great people who make the whole process lots of fun. His first draft is this weekend, and he asked me to make two of his favorite appetizers, Sausage Stars and Pioneer Woman's Jalepeno Poppers, both of which never fail to disappear when I bring them to a party. The Sausage Stars pack a spicy punch easily tamed by using milder sausage and red pepper. Around our house, the hotter the better!Even though the recipe gives directions for serving the Stars immediately after baking, I like to make the separate components ahead of time and assemble them just before serving. If you would like to make them ahead of time, here are a couple pointers:While the sausage browns, press the wonton wrappers into mini-muffin tins and bake them until lightly browned. Once the wonton wrappers cool, I like to stack them in a airtight container. You can easily store the sausage filling ingredients in an airtight container, too. Just be sure to keep the filling refrigerated until you are ready to bake the appetizers.Sausage Stars1 lb. hot pork sausage1 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese1 1/4 cup grated pepper jack cheese1 tsp. ground red pepper1 small can sliced olives1 cup prepared ranch dressing1 package wonton wrappersPreheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook sausage until browned and spoon onto paper-lined plate. In a medium-sized bowl, combine browned sausage with cheeses, red pepper, olives, and ranch dressing.Lightly grease mini-muffin tins and press a wonton wrapper into each cup. Bake for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove baked wrappers from tins and place on a baking sheet. Fill each wrapper with a scant teaspoon of sausage mixture. Bake 5-8 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Yield 48.[...]



Minted Watermelon

2009-08-24T22:35:03.412-04:00

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Subtle, yet daring. It reminds me of our first house, which was unquestionably traditional, yet screaming for a little pizzazz. Surrounded by a mammoth wrap-around porch, the symmetrical exterior was covered in painted siding, a lovely taupe color reminiscent of the early 90's. The shutters were a nondescript shade of murky blue, a color this new bride wanted to replace.

I had no intention of having burgundy shutters, which were all too common back then. Not even a hunter green or a navy blue would work for me. I wanted something that screamed, "I can decorate, and I know what I'm doing!!" After weeks of searching for the perfect color, I settled on a lovely shade of ......ummmm......purple. Ok, it was more like a plum, but it was still purple. My purple inspiration had come from a show home, a coastal show home. Never mind the fact that we were 6 hours from the coast!

The moment the purple shutters went up, I knew I had taken a big risk. On the outside I was cocky, sure of my decision, even proud of the outcome. But on the inside I was a big question mark. Unbeknownst to my husband, for several days I peeked out the window to watch for reactions of neighbors, and when I'd pull up into my driveway, I'd take just a little too long to look at the shutters. Were they okay? Were they too much? Did my husband think I was an idiot even though he acted like he supported the decision?

I got my answer about a week later when one of my husband's coworkers happened to be in the neighborhood. Later that week he stopped my husband to comment on the work being done to our house, specifically the PRIMED shutters. The PRIMED shutters?? No, they weren't PRIMED, thank you. They were SUPPOSED to be that color. Until that Saturday when I made my husband take them down and paint them hunter green.

Apparently I wasn't too good at the subtle, yet daring part when it came to my first house, but with this watermelon, I think I succeeded. You see, this is such a crazy-easy recipe that I almost hesitate to share it. If you're a fan of watermelon, though, you would miss out on a great thing if you never tried this recipe. I love the refreshing mint and the perky green color it gives to contrast the bright pink melon. Be careful not to put too much mint on the melon, or you will lose the subtlety that makes this combination so special.

The instructions? Just cube the melon into bite-size pieces and toss it with some chopped fresh mint leaves. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Thanks, Penny, of Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen, for sharing this treat!(image)



Tyler Florence's Spicy Black-Eyed Peas

2009-08-21T09:55:58.385-04:00

I am a good southern girl who has been making black-eyed peas since she was in diapers (I exaggerate...). Every New Year's feast, as well as every summertime farmer's market meal has been graced by the presence of black-eyed peas, good black-eyed peas that have cooked long and hard with ham, onions, and garlic. But this little recipe here changes history to replace the one I have used for several decades. Tyler Florence's Spicy Black-Eyed Peas left the others in the dust.The biggest challenge here was trying to figure out how to make an appealing photograph of black-eyed peas. Visually appealing or not, these are sure to please if you like a little kick to your food. Speaking of "kick," Florence's recipe called for 5 dried red chiles. Since my grocery had about 3 different versions of dried red chiles, I was not sure which ones he used. To be on the safe side, I started with 2 red chiles (the type shown in the photograph above) and found those to be the perfect heat for this dish. By all means, if you can handle more heat, bring it on!You can learn more about Tyler Florence Fridays here.Spicy Black-Eyed Peasslightly adapted from Tyler Florence2 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped5 cloves garlic, peeled2 red chiles, broken up into small pieces2 bay leaves1 lb dried black-eyed peas1 qt low-sodium chicken stock2 tomatoes, quartered1/4 bunch fresh thyme, leaves removed and stems discardedkosher salt and freshly ground black pepper1 lemon, juiced4 green onions, chopped1/4 cup chopped cilantro leavessour cream for garnish, optionalHeat a large pot over medium heat and add bacon, frying until fat is rendered and bacon is crispy. Spoon bacon onto towel-lined plate and leave rendered bacon fat in the large pot. Add the garlic, chiles, bay leaves, peas, stock, and tomatoes to the large pot and stir to combine. Simmer for an hour and a half over medium-low heat.With a potato masher, crush some of the beans until they reach the desired consistency. Add the thyme, salt, and pepper and cook for another 15 minutes. Just before serving, add the lemon, green onions, cilantro, and remaining bacon. Garnish with sour cream, if desired.[...]



Triple Threat: Fiesta Night

2009-08-20T14:05:09.694-04:00

The other night I pulled together several recipes I had bookmarked from different locations and combined them to make a Mexican dinner. The meal was received with rave reviews, sending the menu into "Tier 1" of my recipe rotation, otherwise known as the cream of the crop. Without lots of unnecessary words, I share with you a delicious success!Green Chile Chickenslightly adapted from The Love of Cooking4 chicken breasts2 eggs, lightly beatensalt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste1 TBS olive oil7 oz can whole green chiles2.25 oz can sliced black olives1/2 cup shredded cheddar1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack 1-2 TBS mayonnaisePreheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine eggs and spices in a bowl. Slice each chicken breast into 2 chunks. Heat olive oil in pan over medium-high heat. In batches, brown chicken on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side, being careful not to crowd pan. Remove chicken to a 13X9" baking dish coated with non-stick cooking spray.Cut green chiles into pieces big enough to cover the top of each chicken piece, and place the chiles on top of each piece of chicken. Combine shredded cheeses and mayonnaise in a small bowl, and evenly spoon the cheese mixture on top of each chicken piece. Sprinkle black olives over all. Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes, or until interior of the chicken reaches 170 degrees. Tamale Griddle Cakesslightly adapted from Prudence Pennywise1 1/2 cups corn kernels, divided use1/4 cup chicken broth1/4 cup butter, softened3 TBS sugarpinch of saltheaping 1/2 cup masa harina1/4 cup flournonstick cooking sprayIn a blender, combine 3/4 cup corn kernels, chicken broth, and butter. Process until almost smooth. Pour mixture into a bowl and add remaining corn kernels, sugar, salt, masa harina, and flour. Shape mixture into 12 small round patties. Preheat griddle on medium-high heat and lightly coat the griddle with nonstick cooking spray. Cook the patties until golden brown on both sides. Garnish with avocado, sour cream, and fresh salsa, if desired.Spanish Riceslightly adapted from Simply Recipes2 TBS olive oil1 onion, finely chopped1 clove garlic, minced2 cups long-grain white rice4 cups chicken stock1 heaping TBS tomato pastepinch of oregano1 tsp saltIn a skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown uncooked rice. Add onion and garlic and cook the mixture while stirring constantly, about 4 minutes, or until the onion soft.Meanwhile, bring chicken stock to a simmer in a large saucepan. Add tomato paste, oregano, salt, and rice mixture. Return to a simmer, cover the saucepan, and reduce heat. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.[...]



Chocolate Salted Caramel Mini Cupcakes

2009-08-15T10:00:03.766-04:00

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Several weeks ago my daughter, Red, asked me why I never make cupcakes, and I couldn't think of a good answer. Is it the messy muffin tins I don't like to wash by hand? The burden of having to decorate a bunch of little things instead of one big thing? Is it because I need a cupcake carrier? A cupcake stand? Who knows (a purely rhetorical question)? I sure don't. But knowing my girl will appreciate the cupcakes makes me want to bake them. Thus begins my journey of cupcakes, the first stop being a decadent chocolate cake filled with salted caramel, fleur de sel salted caramel.

Fleur de sel can be difficult to locate, at least in my neck of the woods, but I am fortunate to have a neighbor who recently traveled to Paris and brought me back the most darling tin of fleur de sel. The recipe calls for over 2 tsp of the salt, which seems like a lot, but it MADE the caramel. My eyes actually rolled back in my head the first time I tasted the salted caramel; I didn't expect the caramel to be THAT good!

To share a few thoughts about construction, the cake, the frosting, and the caramel can all be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge. I filled and frosted half of the cupcakes and saved the other half, unadorned, in the freezer. The recipe directs the cupcakes to be eaten the day they are made, but my family didn't mind ONE SINGLE BIT to nibble on the cupcakes a day later. They were delicious chilled and at room temperature.

MS Cupcake Club is the brainchild of Sugar Betty at Eat My Cupcake. Members are cooking through Martha Stewart's Cupcakes one recipe at a time.
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Hamburger Sliders

2009-08-14T14:09:01.642-04:00

Healthy bloggers, look away. Today I will only disappoint you, for on this day it's all about MAN food, or at least that's what my husband calls it. These little hamburger sliders are amazingly similar to Krystal or White Castle burgers, and even though they aren't the healthiest thing in the world, they are quite acceptable in moderation. Moderation, people! The burger recipe is the brainchild of Robin Sue at Big Red Kitchen, one of my very fave food blogs. She suggests patting the ground beef in one large single layer into a 13 X 9" pan. Once cooked in the oven, you can slice the beef into perfect little squares for the rolls. How simple is that? You could make tons of these at once and still be the life of the party!Big Red Kitchen's Hamburger Sliders1/2 cup dried onion flakes (I used only 1/3 cup)2 pounds ground chuck- 80/20 ground beef1/2 tsp Lawry's seasoned salt6 slices cheddar cheese24 small party rolls24 dill pickle slicesmustard (my addition)Preheat oven to 400 degrees.Spread the onions in the bottom of a 13X9" baking dish, and gently press the ground beef on top of the onions to make one even layer of beef. Sprinkle with seasoned salt. Bake for 20 minutes.With a paper towel, gently blot the top of the cooked beef to remove excess drippings. Layer cheese over beef and return the dish to the oven for 2 minutes, or long enough to melt the cheese. Let rest for 5 minutes. Cut the giant beef pattie into 24 individual-sized patties.Slice open the party rolls and place the bottom layer on a large platter. Place a small pattie on each roll and top with a pickle and/or mustard (if desired). Serve immediately.Robin Sue notes that she stores these upside-down in an airtight container in the fridge to prevent the bottom layer from getting soggy from the onion layer. To reheat, place a few on a microwave safe plate and heat in the microwave for 20 seconds and then 5 second intervals until burger is completely reheated. (Thanks for the storage information, Robin Sue, but we will never have any of these left over!) [...]



Mango Banana Smoothie

2009-08-13T08:50:00.368-04:00

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This Barefoot Bloggers recipe was chosen by Veronica of Supermarket Serenade.

Just a little twist on Ina Garten's Mango Banana Daiquiri makes this smoothie a refreshing family-friendly whirl of tropical delight. Instead of dark rum, I substituted fresh orange juice and added just a bit more sugar syrup. It was a perfect treat to surprise my girls, who thought I was in the kitchen making a sandwich for lunch. They thought it was a fabulous idea to begin our lunch with a smoothie!

Mango Banana Smoothie
adapted from Ina Garten's recipe for Mango Banana Daiquiri

2 cups chopped, ripe mango (1-2 mangos, peeled and seeded)
1 ripe banana
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, about 4 limes
1/3 cup sugar syrup*
1 1/4 cup orange juice
mango slices for serving

Place the mango, banana, lime juice, sugar syrup, and orange juice in a blender and process until smooth. Add 2 cups of ice and process again until free from ice chunks. Serve in chilled glasses with mango slices.

*to make simple syrup- heat 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan until sugar is completely dissolved. Chill.(image)



Bruschetta with Roma Tomatoes

2009-08-10T08:59:42.489-04:00

Have you already seen this post? So sorry. I have a 2 y/o who likes to plop on the chair beside me and punch computer buttons- which has, on more than one occasion, resulted in a published post that wasn't ready to go out. Here is the complete version....This weekend was dubbed "Little Italy" weekend at our house, for I puttered in the kitchen from morning till night churning out a handful of recipes from Marcella Hazan's book, The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. With several hours spaced between courses, the family appreciated and savored each recipe without distraction from side dishes. I have never prepared a meal in this way before, spreading out the meal over an entire day, but I discovered the process was extremely enjoyable.The first recipe I tried was Bruschetta made with Roma tomatoes. Even though I love the idea of bruschetta in concept, more often than not I bypass it on menus or at parties, due mostly to the expected presence of intense raw garlic, a flavor that bullies even the most delicious of tomatoes. But what I am learning through Hazan and through my fellow Cooking Italy bloggers is that balance is paramount.When analyzing the construction of bruschetta, tomatoes are the star, not garlic. Instead of adding copious amounts of raw garlic to the tomatoes, Hazan instructs to simply rub smashed garlic over the toasted bread. The result is "smashing," if I do say so myself! It was so delicious; in fact, I could enjoy this recipe for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. If only we hadn't eaten it all...Brushcetta with Roma Tomatoesadapted from Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking6 garlic cloves12 slices thick, crusty bread, 1/2" to 3/4" thick, 3-4 inches wide8 fresh, ripe Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeded and chopped into 1/2" cubes8-12 basil leaves, torn into small piecesextra virgin olive oilsea saltblack pepper, freshly groundGrill bread until toasted on both sides. Lightly crush garlic with the flat edge of a knife, and peel away the papery skin. Rub the exposed garlic over one side of the toasted bread, including the crust. Spoon tomatoes and sprinkle basil onto the bread and drizzle olive oil over all. Top with a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground pepper.[...]



Gamberetti all'Olio e Limone- Poached Shrimp with Olive Oil and Lemon Juice

2009-08-09T17:31:39.316-04:00

Are you ready for a little Italy? I make no bones about the fact that Italy is one of my favorite places on earth. There are many reasons why I love Italy so, but tonight I found a new one, this delectable shrimp.Most of my shrimp efforts include either the grill and a little lemon pepper or a big pot of Frogmore Stew. With this recipe, I learned to poach shrimp in a vegetable infused liquid made from carrots, celery, and water. The shrimp lingers in the liquid until the faintest blush of pink is spotted under its shell, and then it is drained and bathed in olive oil and lemon juice. A little sprinkle of salt and freshly ground pepper finishes the dish with beautiful simplicity and delicious elegance. Because of the simplicity of the dish, this is the place to use some of your finest ingredients like quality olive oil and shrimp. If fresh shrimp are not available in your area, which is the case for me, you can opt for a frozen wild variety. The shrimp are to be served at room temperature. Poached Shrimp with Olive Oil and Lemon Juice1 stalk celery1 carrot, peeledsalt2 TBS wine vinegar1 1/2 lbs raw shrimp1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juiceblack pepper, freshly groundPlace celery and carrot in a large pot, along with salt, vinegar, and 2 quarts water. Bring the water to a boil and boil continuously for 10 minutes. Add the shrimp and bring the water back to a boil, about 2-3 minutes. Remove shrimp. Shell and devein. If the shrimp is large, you can slice it lengthwise. Place shrimp in a serving dish and cover with olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle pepper over the shrimp. (I also lightly sprinkled salt over the shrimp.)Cooking Italy is a cooking group formed by Angela of Spinach Tiger. We are cooking our way through Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan.[...]