Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wacky Cake

Every year, for as long as I can remember, my mom would always make a wacky cake for my sister's birthday. It's my sister's favorite cake (and mine as well), so to carry on the tradition, I still make this cake for her every year. The cake itself is so incredibly moist, and has a delicate chocolate flavor. It's just so unbelievably good. My sister and I don't like this cake with frosting on it, but rather a big dollop of whipped cream. I have, in the past, made this cake into cupcakes (just adjusted the cooking time) and frosted them with my favorite chocolate frosting (recipe here), and they were very good, but I still prefer eating it with only the whipped cream.
Happy Birthday to my dear sister, Kate!

Wacky Cake
(recipe from my mom)

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 T white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13x9 baking dish with nonstick baking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, cocoa and baking soda. Add the water, oil, vanilla and vinegar. Mix well.
Pour cake batter into the prepared baking dish.
Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center, comes out clean.
Let cool. Best served slightly warm, with whipped cream, or can frost with favorite chocolate frosting, if desired. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Roasted Turkey

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I wanted to share with you my favorite, simple roasted turkey recipe. I've made this recipe for many years now and I always get perfect results. The flavor is so wonderful and the meat is always so moist and juicy. You will not be disappointed by this recipe, I promise!

Roasted Turkey
(adapted from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse)

1- fresh or thawed turkey (about 10-12 lbs)
1 medium onion, quartered
4 garlic cloves, halved
Several sprigs of fresh herbs: thyme, parsley, rosemary and sage
2 bay leaves
8 T unsalted butter, divided
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Adjust a rack in the oven to the lowest position and remove other racks.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Remove fresh (or thawed) turkey from fridge. Place in a clean sink; remove packaging, and then remove the neck and giblets bag from inside the bird (discard or save to make gravy, etc.).

Rinse the bird with cold water and then pat dry well with paper towels, inside and out. Place bird onto a rack in a roasting pan, breast side up. (I like to add a few cups of water and chopped onion to the bottom of the roasting pan for the gravy)

Season the bird liberally with kosher salt and black pepper on the outside and inside. Stuff the inside of the bird with the onion, garlic, herbs and bay leaves.

Melt 4 T of the unsalted butter and then brush generously all over the outside of the bird. (reserve remaining butter).
Tent the turkey with foil and roast in the oven for about 2 hours (or about 2/3 of the entire cooking time).

Remove the foil, and baste the bird with the remaining 4 T of melted unsalted butter. Place back into the oven, uncovered, and continue to roast for the remaining cooking time; about an hour or so. (cooking times will vary depending on the size of the turkey)

When turkey is done, remove from the oven and let sit for about 30 minutes before carving. Use the pan drippings to make gravy, if desired. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Southern Chess Pie and Pecan Pie

My southern husband's two most favorite pies are: pecan and chess. I'll agree that pecan pie has always been one of my favorites as well, but being a "yankee", I had never heard of a chess pie until I met my husband. His Aunt Mary sent me her chess pie recipe shortly after Michael and I were married, and I was amazed the first time I made it. It was SO good. Now it's a staple dessert at our Thanksgiving meal every year, along with a pecan pie.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Aunt Mary's Chess Pie

1- 9 inch unbaked pie crust (homemade or store bought)
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 T cornmeal
2 eggs
4 T milk (whole or 2 %)
1 T white vinegar
1 T vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a pie plate with the unbaked pie crust.
Whisk together the butter, sugar, cornmeal, eggs, milk, vinegar and vanilla. Pour into the unbaked pie crust. Bake for 35-40 minutes until set. Cool completely and then serve with homemade whipped cream! Enjoy!

Southern Pecan Pie
(adapted from a recipe by Guy Fieri)

1- 9 inch unbaked pie crust (homemade or store bought)
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 T unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
3 large eggs
2 cups toasted pecans, chopped*

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Line a pie plate with the unbaked pie crust, flute the edges.

In a large bowl, whisk together the corn syrup, brown sugar, salt, butter and vanilla.
In a small, separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Then whisk the eggs into the sugar mixture.
Fold the chopped, toasted pecans in to the egg mixture.

(* I highly recommend toasting the pecans for the best flavor, but it's optional. Here's how to toast the pecans: For every 1 cup of pecan halves: melt 1 T butter in a saucepan. Remove from the heat, add the pecans and toss to coat. Spread pecans onto a parchment lined baking sheet in a single layer. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 5-7 minutes, until fragrant. Remove from oven and let cool. )

Pour pecan mixture into pie crust. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the center is set. Let cool completely (or overnight) before slicing. Serve with homemade whipped cream! Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Moist Pumpkin Spice Muffins (With Cream Cheese Frosting)

With Thanksgiving coming up very soon, I thought I would throw out a few of my favorite Thanksgiving dessert recipes. My entire Thanksgiving menu changes from year to year, but usually includes: an herb roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, mashed butternut squash, green bean casserole, a sweet potato casserole, sausage-sage stuffing, homemade dinner rolls and bread, olives, pickles, and cranberry sauce. But because dessert is the best part, I always make a few different pies and/or treats for dessert to make everyone happy. I traditionally make this apple pie, a pumpkin pie or pumpkin cheesecake, pecan pie, and a chess pie (recipes to come!). I also like to make cupcakes or fun thanksgiving themed cookies for the kids (and adults).
This muffin recipe is sooooo good and when combined with the frosting, it transforms into an amazingly good cupcake. My kids love these and so do I. I like to make them as mini versions, but they are just as good regular sized. Hope you enjoy these! Stay tuned for more recipes!

Moist Pumpkin Spice Muffins (With Cream Cheese Frosting)
(recipe adapted from the pioneer woman--makes 12 regular sized or 24 mini muffins)

For the muffins:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
4 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup pumpkin puree (heaping)
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

For the frosting:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 pound confectioners' sugar (about 2 cups)
1/2 tsp vanilla

To make the muffins:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Spray a 12-cup muffin or 24 cup mini muffin tin with baking spray.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or two forks, until it is fully incorporated.

In a seperate bowl, mix together the pumpkin, evaporated milk, egg and vanilla. Pour pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture and gently fold until just combined.

Evenly pour the muffin batter into the greased muffin cups--about 1/2 full in each.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes if using a 12-cup pan or about 15-20 minutes if using a mini muffin pan.
Remove from the pan and let cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting: combine all of the frosting ingredients and mix on high speed until fluffy and soft. Frost the cupcakes per desired technique and then store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Enjoy!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Awesome Caramel Corn

My family and I LOVE caramel corn. I've made a few different recipes over the years, but we think this particular recipe is the BEST. I make this a lot during the holidays and send it to most of our extended family as part of their gifts. I like to make the caramel corn even more awesome by adding a few special touches, like drizzling colored chocolate over it, adding candy or chocolate bars, or candied nuts. You must try this recipe!

caramel corn mixed with chopped Twix bars and drizzled with melted chocolate
 Carol's Caramel Corn
(recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour)

15 cups popped corn
2 T molasses
1 cup brown sugar, packed (I use light)
1/2 cup salted butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick foil.
Pour the popped corn into a large bowl (at least 6 quart).

In a large saucepan, over medium-high heat, bring the molasses, brown sugar, butter and corn syrup to a boil. Boil, stirring frequently, for 5 full minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the baking soda. Stir well as the mixture turns foamy.

Immediately (and carefully!) pour the very hot caramel syrup over the popped corn and stir until the corn is well coated.

Spread the hot caramel corn onto the parchment lined pan. Bake in the preheated 200 degree oven for one hour. Stir the corn every 15 minutes during this time.

Remove caramel corn from the oven and let cool. Break apart and put into air tight containers. If desired, mix in choice of candy, nuts or drizzle with melted chocolate before storing. Enjoy!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mom's Best Apple Pie

The title for this pie is courtesy of my mother describing her mother's apple pie recipe. It's very fitting because this pie is the best apple pie, not only in my mom's opinion, but also mine as well. My grandmother was an amazing baker and an excellent cook. She was also French-Canadian and most of her recipes are French inspired and/or came from her mother. The streusel-type topping on this pie, instead of the traditional double pie crust, is French-style. It's very sweet and full of buttery goodness, another French quality. My grandmother definitely loved her butter! Here's her beloved recipe, I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Mom's Best Apple Pie
(recipe from Alene Judd)

For the topping:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup butter

For the filling:

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
3 T flour
1 tsp cinnamon
6-7 medium-sized tart apples, peeled and sliced
1 crust, pie crust
2 T butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

To begin, make the pie crust (my favorite recipe here) or use your favorite recipe or one store bought pie crust.

Then make the topping: Whisk together the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cut the butter into the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Place in the fridge while making the rest of the pie.

For the filling: Combine the sugar, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add the sliced apples and toss to coat evenly.

To assemble: Line the bottom of a deep pie dish with the single pie crust; flute the edges. Fill the pie shell with the apple mixture. Dot with the 2 T of butter. Remove the topping from the fridge and scatter in chunky pieces over the apples.

Bake for 30 minutes or so, until the apples are tender and the topping is dark golden brown. Cool to room temperature before serving. Wonderful served with vanilla bean ice cream, homemade whipped cream, a slice of cheese or all three, if desired :) Enjoy!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Creamy Corn Chowder

I'm really not a big fan of corn chowder (chowda?), especially if it's canned or made with creamed corn. But, I really, really like this recipe. It's fairly basic, but the ingredients are fresh and the flavor is wonderful. It's creamy, hearty and even better (I think) the second day!

Creamy Corn Chowder
(generously adapted from a recipe by rainy day gal)

6 slices thick bacon, chopped (yes, six!)
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 medium-large sweet onion, diced
4-6 medium sized yukon potatoes, diced, unpeeled
6 cups corn (fresh off the cob or can use frozen--thaw first)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth (low sodium is better)
2 cups water
2 cups half and half
Kosher salt, to taste
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Heat a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until just crisp. Once done, remove to a paper towel lined bowl, using a slotted spoon. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease in the pot (this is the good stuff!).

Reduce the heat to medium; add the onion to the bacon grease and cook for about 4 minutes until almost tender. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the flour and cook for about a minute, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn.

Immediately add the chicken broth, making sure to scrape the brown bits off the bottom. Then add the water, potatoes, corn, celery and bacon. Season with salt and pepper (I usually add about a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 a teaspoon of pepper to start). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender, stirring occasionally.

Pour in the half and half and bring back to a boil. Check seasonings and then simmer over low heat for another 5 to 10 minutes until thickened slightly. Serves 8. Great served with crusty bread! Enjoy!