November 30, 2015

Crazy A$% Kit Kat Cake

It is truly fun to find these types of cakes on the internet.  I mean, who knew??

I was reading one of my favorite crochet blogs last week, and this cake was right there begging me to make it!  So, I did.

If you're like me and can't resist a fun cake like this, it is easy to do, and according to my sweet mother, the best cake she had ever eaten!

You will need:

1 box of cake mix.  I used a Pillsbury Moist Supreme White Cake Mix.  Just make the cake following the directions on the box.  I substituted 1 cup of milk for 1 cup of water.  I baked the cake batter in two 8-inch round cake pans that I "greased" and dusted with flour.  I baked the cakes according to the directions on the box.

Let the cakes cool completely and remove from pans.  I torted the cakes so they didn't have a dome on them.  I frosted the cake with a chocolate buttercream frosting.  I then placed Kit Kat candy bars all the way around.  (I think it took eight candy bars).  I covered the top of the cake with semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Tie a ribbon around the cake, and there you have it!

Crazy, right?

November 22, 2015

Pumpkin Pie Tarts

I am sitting at my kitchen table while cupcakes are baking in my oven.  Cudjoe has an event that he needs to bring a dessert to. Seriously, I couldn't be happier to oblige!!

I made these little pumpkin pie tarts last week.  I adapted this recipe from a Cherry Tart recipe that I have had forever!  It is typed out on a recipe card and placed in a recipe book that contains all of my "back-in-the-day" recipes.

As I made these tarts, I was reminded about how we used to share recipes when I was a young wife and mother.  If I went to a party at a friend's house, at playgroup, sorority, supper club, a church potluck, and there was something there that I wanted the recipe for, I would just ask, "could you give me that recipe"?  

Oftentimes I would just jot it down on a scrap piece of  paper or on the back of a bank deposit slip!

We always had recipe cards, too, and many an obliging friend or acquaintance would later write down the recipe for you on one of their recipe cards and bring to you later.

One Wednesday morning this past summer while at Lady's Day Golf, one of the ladies had made raspberry and blueberry cookie bars that were made with oats and homemade preserves that another one of the ladies that belong to our group had made and given to her.  I asked for the recipe, and the lady (who made the cookie bars) said she got it from the Pioneer Woman's blog!  So, there you go.  

Several years ago, I gathered all my scraps of paper, and newspaper cutouts and typed them all onto recipe cards and placed them in one of these binders.  Just recently, I had used my "back-in-the-day" recipe binder so much that it fell apart.  This is a brand new one,  and I still refer to these recipes often.

I very much enjoy searching the internet looking at all the wonderful food photography and reading all the delectable recipes out there; however, I really like to taste something first and then decide whether it is something that I want to spend my time, money, and effort making.  So, hopefully these will be a keeper for you!

Pumpkin Pie Tarts

For the Crust:

1 Cup butter  - room temperature
6 oz. Cream Cheese
2 Cups flour

Mix like pie crust.  Chill for two hours.  Roll out dough and cut with a round scalloped cutter.  Place in tart pans.  

For the Pumpkin Pie Filling:

1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice

Combine ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Fill crusts with pumpkin pie filling.  Bake in a 350 degree F preheated oven for five minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F and bake for 10 minutes more.  

The tarts are done when the filling is set.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.


November 13, 2015

Me Oh My I Love Pie

Food can evoke so many feelings and memories of time shared with loved ones, and many of my memories of food, cooking, and baking are tied directly to my grandmothers.

I was blessed with two of the very best grandmothers that a girl could every ask for.   I will forever be grateful for the many, many blessings they brought to my life.  

  My two grandmothers were the very best people I have ever known.  Loving and kind, and filled with joy.  They loved me and showed me how to love in return.

Pie reminds me of my sweet maternal grandmother.  She was the very best pie baker.  The first thing I ever made was a chocolate cream pie, and I learned from her.   I was barely able to stand up to the stove when she walked me through the process.  She always made pumpkin pies, chocolate pies. lemon pies, and banana cream pies.

I am honestly not sure what recipe she used for her pumpkin pie, but the one pictured here tasted just like hers.  (And she always, always wore an apron1)

(By the way, if you accidentally buy sweetened condensed milk instead of evaporated milk like I did, don't panic.   You can substitute cream, half and half, or milk.  It will work perfectly.  I promise.)

So in memory of my beautiful grandmother, I give you this pumpkin pie recipe:

Pumpkin Pie

3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 can (15 oz.) 100% pure pumpkin
12 ounces of half and half
1 package refrigerated pie crust

Mix sugar, pumpkin pie spice in a small bowl.  Beat eggs in a large bowl.  Stir eggs into pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture.  Stir in half and half.

Place one of the refrigerated pie crusts into a deep pie dish.  Press top of crust with fork tines and poke bottom of  crust with the same fork.  Pour filling into pie shell.   Using a pumpkin cookie cutter, cut out pumpkin shapes from the second pie crust and place on top of pie.

Bake in a 425 degree F oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F  and bake for 50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool for two hours.  Serve immediately or refrigerate.

(This recipe was adapted from Libby's Pumpkin Pie Recipe.)


November 10, 2015

M & M Cookie Bars

Halloween candy was half-price at Kroger the day after Halloween, and I couldn't resist buying a bag of mini packs of 
M & M's.  I really like M & M's, and I really, really like the peanut butter ones.

This bag of M & M candy was my inspiration for these candy-filled, buttery cookie bars.  But by the time I got around to making them, there were only six mini bags left :(  Yes, the two of us had eaten most of them before I got around to making the cookie bars.

Luckily, I had a large bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips in the pantry!

Making cookie bars is easier to make than individual cookies for obvious reasons.   You spread the batter in a cake pan, place in right into the oven, and you've got yourself a dozen cookie bars.

These are definitely best right out of the oven while the chocolate is still warm, gooey, oozey, and if you get so lucky to have a bite of a peanut M & M, well, that's just decadent.

If you want to make these sweet concoctions, please do the following:

M & M Cookie Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup of butter - room temperature
2 eggs - room temperature
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chip cookies
And as many varieties and amounts of M & M's as your heart desires

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.  Whip together butter and sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Whip  a bit more.  Add in dry ingredients one-third at a time and mix on lower speed of mixer until all ingredients are just blended together.

Line a brownie pan with parchment paper and spread cookie bar batter on top of paper.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes or until desired doneness.  I like mine more chewy than crunchy.

Serve to family and friends.


November 5, 2015

Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

My favorite cupcakes are yellow cake with chocolate buttercream, white cake with chocolate buttercream, and chocolate cake with peanut butter buttercream.   I like very traditional flavors.  What are your favorites?

I made these cupcakes for a small Halloween "party" at our house.  I was watching Cupcake Wars recently on the Cooking Channel, and Cudjoe said that he thought that the cupcake craze was slowing down.  Perhaps that's true, but don't we all love a good cupcake?  There's just something about their size and "cuteness"!

Yes, these cupcakes are made from a mix.  Please don't judge.  I like to use mixes.  However,  I do make a few changes to them (think Cake Doctor).

Here's the sweet lowdown:

For the Cake Batter

1 box Pillsbury Cake Mix
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup of milk
2 eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together on low on stand mixer (or handheld mixer).  Turn on high and beat for two minutes.

Using an ice-cream scoop, scoop batter into cupcake liners placed in a cupcake pan.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes.  (Check at 15 minutes.  If they're not done, bake for a few minutes more.  You don't want to over bake them.)

Chocolate Buttercream

1/2 cup butter at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar (sifted)
4 tablespoons of cocoa (sifted with powdered sugar)
1 teaspoon of vanilla
3 to 4 tablespoons of heavy cream

Whip butter on high with mixer for a couple of minutes.  Add powdered sugar in batches (so you don't make a mess).  Add vanilla, and then add cream until you reach the desired consistency.

I piped my frosting on using a large piping tip.

For the Fondant Cut-Outs

I purchased Wilton's prepared fondant at the Hobby Lobby.  It was already tinted orange.  Roll fondant out to desired thickness.  Using a small leaf-shaped cookie cutter, cut out leaves and place on each cupcake.  Easy!

Serve to family, friends, and yourself!!


November 2, 2015

Giant City Lodge & Restaurant

Giant City Lodge & Restaurant is located in the middle of the Shawnee National Forest near Carbondale, Illinois.

Last Friday night, we ate supper there.  On Friday nights, they have a fish fry, with all-you-can-eat catfish, coleslaw, old fashioned fried potatoes, and hushpuppies.  The catfish was delicious.

If an all-you-can-eat fish fry isn't your thing, you can order off of a full menu.

Giant City Lodge & Restaurant serves an all-you-can-eat barbecue dinner on Thursdays.  All other days of the week, they serve an all-you-can-eat fried chicken dinner.

The dining room is completely surrounded by windows; so no matter where you sit, you will have impressive views of this beautiful setting.

From the front entrance or back entrance, you enter this fabulous, rustic lobby. 

Friday night, we were able to be seated without a wait; however, Sundays during the month of October when the foliage is at its most magnificent boasting colors of yellow, red and orange; and southern Illinois weather is still rather mild, reservations are recommended.  

This water tower is located behind the parking lot.  It's probably a good idea to climb to the top before eating!  At the top of the tower is an observation deck.  The view of the Shawnee National Forest is breathtaking.

And here are the cabins that are available for rental.

You can read about the lodge's history here.  

If you have seen the movie Gone Girl, part of it was filmed inside Giant City Lodge & Restaurant.  When I watched this movie, the scenes featuring the lodge especially stood out for me since we have eaten their many, many times.

If you ever find yourself in beautiful southern Illinois, this is a must do.  You won't be disappointed!