Monday, July 11, 2011

The South: A Love Story

I was born and raised in the South (well, except for a few stints in Ohio, Puerto Rico and NY but that is another story). I went to college in the South. I got my first job in Atlanta, the biggest city in the South. When I met my husband, I told him I would live anywhere south of the Mason Dixon line and east of the Mississippi. He thought I was kidding. I am not. And really, where else is a name like Virginia Ann going to go over well? For the sake of my youngest child, we need to stay in the South. To say I love the South is an understatement. I love her people, her literature, her history and most definitely her FOOD! As any upstanding southern lady would, I have had a subscription to Southern Living since I was 16. It was a gift from my Aunt Maureen- a New Yorker, gasp!-who has seen that geography may separate us but we can both agree that this publication should be scripture to all who love the South. 
 The day Southern Living comes in my mailbox is an exciting day. I know that once the little people hit their pillows, I get to curl up and read the magazine cover to cover! My husband is excited because he knows that in the days to follow I will try new recipes and he will be the beneficiary. Such an experience happened last night and I have to share. We had a Southern Summer Supper with lots of yummy foods from the garden- fried okra, cucumber salad and squash casserole among others. We had company over and I was a little nervous to try a new recipe for dessert but SL has never failed me and it exceeded expectations this time! I mean, how could a recipe that includes Mountain Dew go wrong?

Grab the following. It is high time you make Peach Enchiladas!
2 cans of crescent rolls
2lbs fresh peaches
1.5 cups of sugar
1 cup butter, melted
1 tsp cinnamon
1 can of Mountain Dew

Cut up your peaches. The mag says to quarter them. I went a little smaller. 
Lay out the crescents in a buttered baking dish. Place a tablespoon of peaches or a quartered peach on each triangle. Roll up the dough around the peaches and pinch the ends together.
Place the peach pockets point side down in the dish. Mix together the melted butter, sugar and cinnamon and drizzle it over the rolls.
Take the secret ingredient. Ignore your husband's strange looks. 
Pour the Moutain Dew over the rolls. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. (It only took my oven 40 minutes so watch them).
 I wish your house could smell like this right now. 
Put these on your "must make this summer" list. Then send Southern Living a handwritten thank you note. It is what a good Southern lady would do.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Chocolate Raspberry Kit Kat Cake

Two of my favorite combinations are chocolate and raspberry. There is a deli nearby (NYBD in Cary for you local folks) and Tommy, the owner, makes the most amazing chocolate raspberry cookies. It is a butter cookie with a big ol dollop of raspberry jam on top and then dipped in chocolate. They call them OMG cookies because that is pretty much all you can get out when you bite into one. Tommy only makes them on special occasions and if you happen to be there when he does, buy them. There won't be any left past 9am. Trust me. 

I thought I would share my own version of chocolate raspberry heaven. This cake looks like you spent alot of time on it but it is so easy! You will get rave reviews and set high expectations for next time but let's focus on the here and now. 

Here and now is what you need:
 2 Boxes Chocolate Cake (I prefer Devil's food)
2 Tubs of Chocolate Icing
2 Jars of Smuckers Raspberry Preserves
12 Kit Kats (use regular sized Kit Kats, no snack size)
16 oz of raspberries
Raspberry colored ribbon
Glue or Glue gun

Make the cake according to the directions. Of course you can make your cake from scratch if you are like that and don't have a baby attached to you in the Baby Bjorn. Me, I am short on time and free arms, so I use box cake for now. 
 The two boxes will make three 9 inch round cakes. (I only own two pans so I had to bake in shifts.)
 Lay your cakes out on parchment paper and let them cool completely. 
 Using a serrated knife slice the rounded part of the top making a flat top. You won't need the rounded tops- as you can see I placated a certain two year old with one of mine
 After you slice off the top, then slice you cake in half crosswise, making two layers. Repeat with the other two cakes. You should now have six layers.
 At this point I put parchment paper on my spinny cake plate which makes icing the cake super easy. I got it when I coerced my friends Jenna and Ginny to take the Wilton cake decorating class with me back before we  had no kids and lots of free time. Every Tuesday night for 6 weeks we iced beautiful concoctions and every Wednesday our co-workers were so excited to see us! We all probably gained 10 lbs and I am really no better at icing a cake but I do love my spinny cake plate. 
ANYWAY, place the first layer on the parchment paper and spread raspberry preserves on top. Stack layer #2 on top and repeat with 3, 4 and 5. After you slather on the preserves on 5 place layer # 6 on top.
 You should have something that looks like this. It doesn't need to be pretty- that is the beauty of this cake.
 Now ice the cake with the chocolate icing. Again, don't be nervous. No one will see any of the icing. 

 After I have iced the cake completely, I cut the extra parchment paper around the cake and slide it onto the pretty cake stand I am going to use. This is a big cake and is hard to move once it is complete so do it now.
 Kit Kat time!! Open the Kit Kats very carefully. Broken Kit Kats will not do. I actually use scissors to open them because I have broken too many and had to make a quick trip back to the store!
 Place the Kit Kats around the cake like so. The icing with help them stay upright. 

 Next place the raspberries on top of the cake. I start in the middle and work my way out. 
 Til it looks like this! 
 Now it is time to get your ribbon. Wrap the ribbon around the cake and cut it leaving about 2 inches overlap. Put a dot of glue on the overlap piece, wrap it around the cake and secure the ends. 
 You have a cake that is a gorgeous as it is yummy! And it is even better the second day when the preserves have soaked in the cake so hide a few pieces for leftovers. I hope you have an occasion for this cake very soon or no reason at all except raspberries are in season! 
 My reason was for the wonderful father of my three little people! We all enjoyed it and I hope you will to!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Blueberry Boy Bait

One of my favorite food blogs is Smitten Kitchen. I found this yummy recipe a while back and it is perfect for all those blueberries around right now. Also perfect for boys as it's name declares. But grandparents, neighbors and small children seem to love it as well (that was my focus group). You decide. But with 2 sticks of butter how can you go wrong? 
Gather up the following: 
2 cups plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup blueberries 
1/2 cup blueberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Beat the butter and sugars with an electric mixer on medium high speed until fluffy- about two minutes. Add eggs one at a time while beating. 

While continuing to mix, add in half of the flour mixture, then half the milk, then the rest of the flour and then the rest of the milk. 
Toss in the blueberries with a rubber spatula. 

Pour the mixture into a 9 x12 greased baking dish. 

Time to top the cake. Spread more blueberries over the batter. 

Mix the sugar and cinnamon and then pour over the blueberries. 

Bake at 350 for 45- 50 minutes

YUM!! You can bait alot of boys with this!

Blueberry Boy Bait
Full Recipe
Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen
2 cups plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk (though buttermilk, which was all I had on hand, worked just great)
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not defrost first as it tends to muddle in the batter)

1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not defrost)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 13 by 9-inch baking pan.
Whisk two cups flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. With electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down bowl. Reduce speed to medium and beat in one-third of flour mixture until incorporated; beat in half of milk. Beat in half of remaining flour mixture, then remaining milk, and finally remaining flour mixture. Toss blueberries with remaining one teaspoon flour. Using rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries. Spread batter into prepared pan.
For the topping:
Scatter blueberries over top of batter. Stir sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl and sprinkle over batter. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 20 minutes, then turn out and place on serving platter (topping side up). Serve warm or at room temperature. (Cake can be stored in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

How to freeze blueberries

The Aldi's near us has blueberries for 99 cents this week. If you don't have an Aldi's I am so sorry! If you do and have never been because it looks a little shady (it is) and you have to "rent" your shopping cart for a quarter (you do), well get over yourself and get to Aldi's! They have great produce for a fantastic price! The blueberries, strawberries and pineapples are all 99 cents this week. And the blueberries at my store are local from right here in North Carolina! So I bought 18 pints. Yes, I said 18. My 4 yr old can eat a pint in one sitting so I decided to stock up. But of course, they will not stay fresh so I needed to freeze the berries. Seeing as how I have never been a canner/freezer type person (see below post), I thought I would just pour them in ziplocs and pop them in the freezer. Au contraire! Apparently if you do that they will all freeze as one big clump and we don't want that. So my friend Robyn told me to do it this way and I am sharing for all you other virgin blueberry freezers. I didn't want you to have clumps of frozen berries. You are welcome.

Wash your berries. Let them dry out for a few minutes- like 10.
 Pour the berries onto a jelly roll pan. Don't use a cookie sheet b/c you will have berries rolling all over your floor and your freezer. Spread them out in a single layer. Place the sheet in your freezer. Leave them there for 15 minutes.
When you take them out, the berries will be "individually" frozen so now they won't freeze together. Pour them into the ziploc bags and place them in the freezer.
Am I the only one who didn't know how to do this? If so, I feel silly. Hopefully one of y'all out there in blogland is saying "Ohhhh that is so helpful!" :)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Homemade Strawberry Jam in 10 minutes

 This right here is heaven.
Have you ever had strawberry freezer jam? It was new to me a few years ago. I did not grow up canning veggies or picking fruit. Really, the closest I came to choosing my own produce as an adult was putting it in my cart at Publix. (Publix, PLEASE come to North Carolina! I miss you so much!) Anyway, when we moved to NC, our new friends told us we HAD to pick strawberries and since the farm was 2 miles from our house we set out to do just that. Jack was only 18 months but the three of us ended up with 14 pounds of strawberries in a short period of time. I had no idea what I would do with all those strawberries until my friend Barb nonchalantly said "you make jam, right?" Um, no. I do not make jam. Actually, I used to not make jam. But now I do. And it is so easy. Your friends won't believe you but that's okay. When you show up on their doorstep with homemade jam, let them think you slaved over a pot of boiling jars or whatever it takes to do it the hard way.
This, folks, is the cheater method.

Remember how I plan a monthly activity for the women at church? Well June was Jam Month. We all got together and made jam. And ate alot of jam. On homemade bread. It was delish! We met at my friend Emily's house. Can we stop for a minute and have a moment of silence for this island? I mean you could have a serious dance party on this island but that would be a different kind of activity :)  
Okay let's get started. Here is what you need:
Strawberries chopped like this:
And this secret ingredient- Ball Instant Pectin
You must get this kind for this recipe to work. The others kinds use LOTS more sugar. I got mine at Kroger and I know Wal-Mart has it too.
Put your chopped strawberries in a blender. Blend to your liking. I like my jam a little chunky so I don't blend them all the way. Barb likes her's smooth and she was pushing the buttons in this pic so no chunks. You could also do this in a food processor.
 Now if you like your jam with chunks, pour the strawberries in a bowl and then add the pectin and sugar. If you want smooth jam (sounds like a lite rock radio station), then you can add the pectin and sugar in the blender.
 Stir or blend the ingredients and pour into containers like these. Set it on your counter for 30 minutes and it is finished! Seriously that is all you do! The jam will stay fresh in the fridge for 3 weeks and in your freezer for 1 year.
You better make a lot because it goes fast! We put it on pancakes and french toast, use it for fillings in cakes, pour it over ice cream and of course for pb&j's.

Here is the recipe for 2 half pints:
1 2/3 cups of strawberries (about 2 lbs)
2/3 c Sugar
2 Tbsp Pectin

The jar of Ball pectin makes 15 half pints of jam.

Happy Jammin!