Chocolate Buttermilk Sheet Cake

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Ever have a craving for something so bad that you can't think about anything else?  Rewind to last weekend and all I had was chocolate cake on the brain.  O.K. that usually happens about once a week.  I can usually tamp down the craving with some other chocolate treat, but this time I wanted cake ☺.  I didn't have the time to go all out and make a layered and frosted cake.  In comes this recipe that is easy, but also delivers chocolate satisfaction in spades.  No stand mixer, no creaming, no alternating wet and dry-- just a bowl, a whisk, and a pot and you are good to go.

I am not afraid of a little fat in a recipe, but given the chance to lighten things up without sacrificing flavor or texture, I will go for it.  In fact, the substitution of some Greek yogurt for half of the butter called for in the original makes the cake even moister in my opinion.  Like most chocolate recipes that I make, I use espresso powder to enhance the chocolate flavor. While the cake is baking, you make the frosting on the stove-top and then pour it over the cake just as it comes out of the oven.  No waiting for the cake to cool before frosting.  How nice is that?

You can make the cake in a 9x13-inch pan or a jelly roll pan.  This just depends on your cake-to-frosting ratio mood.  In this case, I was in the more cake than frosting mood with a tall glass of cold milk.


Bacon and Tomato Dip with Black Pepper Potato Chips

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Whether you are going to be hosting a backyard BBQ for Labor Day or kicking off the start to college football with a little tailgating this weekend (yeah!), I have got a recipe for you.

This dip utilizes the seemingly endless supply of late summer tomatoes while incorporating the wonder food that is bacon (sound familiar? See last post).  These two ingredients are mixed with a bevy of complimentary flavors that will have hands moving back to the bowl for more.  Sometimes the hands will even move involuntarily.  Trust me, I've seen it☺.


Tomato, Corn and Bacon Pie

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Before I announce the winners of the corn cutter giveaway, I thought it would be appropriate to share another delicious corn recipe for your summer lunches and suppers.  Not only does this recipe highlight sweet summer corn, it also has layers of garden ripe tomatoes.

Unlike savory pie recipes that use a pâte brisée or puff pastry, this crust is more like a biscuit.  It's kind of a cross between a cobbler and a pie.  The bulk of the filling comes from the tomatoes, corn and cheese.  To this base I add some bacon, sautéed onion, garlic, and a little cayenne for a kick.  In order to keep the tender biscuit layer from getting soggy, I lay the tomato slices on paper towels to draw out excess water.  I also add a little cornstarch in the cheese and corn mixture for extra insurance against sogginess.  Baked until golden and bubbling, this is a forkful of summer goodness.  The nice part is, you can make it a day in advance, chill it, then reheat it in the oven before serving which makes the dish perfect for

On to the giveaway.  First, a big thank you to all who entered.  I enjoyed reading all the different ways you enjoy corn.  The random winners drawn are...

Corn and macaroni casserole, from my grandmother.

I follow you on Facebook too. Also like fresh corn saute until a little brown in butter only.

Congratulations Alyssa and Paula.  Please send me an e-mail with your address and I will promptly mail you your corn cutter.  For those of you that are still interested in a corn cutter of your own, check your local hardware store (that's where my grandparents bought it) or visit Lee's Manufacturing to purchase one online.


Sunday Dinner

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Hot Artichoke-Crabmeat Spread

Baked Cheese Grits
Sweet and Sour Green Bean Hash
Homemade Dinner Rolls

Chocolate Buttermilk Sheet Cake

Fall is trying its best to assert itself around here.  Yeah, the forecast calls for more heat later in the week, but today brings steady drizzle and mild temperatures.  It is this kind of day that makes me think of Bears games and hot dips.  

The original recipe called for lemon-pepper seasoning, but that is an ingredient that I do not keep stocked in my spice cabinet.  So I add fresh lemon juice, a little onion powder, and some freshly ground black pepper to add that seasoned taste.  The earthiness of the artichoke marries well with the sweetness of the crabmeat and what dish doesn't benefit from some mayo and parmesan cheese?! 

Hit it with some cayenne pepper for a kick and this dip has that each bite better than the last quality to it.  


Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

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Wednesday was the first day back at school for my kids and I wanted to have a special after school treat to share with them while talking about all the activities of the day.  It just so happened that I had an overgrown zucchini from the garden that would be more suited for baking than for using in an evening meal.  Zucchini bread was the obvious choice, but I wanted something different.  Trying to get children to eat a veggie like zucchini can sometimes be a challenge, so I took into consideration that Mabelle, my youngest daughter, firmly believes that chocolate is a food group. (That's my girl☺.)  With a quick internet search, I landed on a recipe that I knew I could work with.  Not only did the end result bake up beautifully with a high dome (don't be afraid to fill your muffin wells to the top), but the taste and texture are outstanding.

The bulk of the taste and texture comes from melted dark chocolate and zucchini.  Both contain antioxidants and vitamins.  Healthy, right??  Well, I even took it a step further and substituted half of the oil called for in the original recipe with 0% fat Greek yogurt.  Even healthier!  I used just a touch of cinnamon for a subtle spice and added espresso powder for a deeper chocolate flavor.  And for the double chocolate... I folded a good cupful of chocolate chips into the batter.  Now we're talking.

The recipe makes for an odd number of muffins (15 standard) but trust me, you will want those few extra muffins to nibble on. You can even bake the extra batter in small ramekins or a mini loaf pan.  

When Mabelle came home from school that day, her eyes widened with excitement when she saw the counter full of chocolate muffins.  "Ooh are those chocolate muffins for me?"  I sat her at the counter and poured her a glass of milk.  First bite-- "Mmm, chocolate."  Second bite-- "Oh, yummy."  Third bite and right after this picture was taken-- "Um, Mommy?  What's this green thing?!"  I couldn't lie. I let her in on the secret ingredient.  Her response-- "That's o.k. because these are really good chocolate muffins!"  Kid tested... mother approved☺.


Creamed Corn

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I am really excited to be sharing this recipe (actually it is more of a technique with a really cool kitchen gadget) with you today.  I'm so excited, I don't even know where to start talking about this recipe.  This is the real deal.  No cream, no half-and-half, no flour-- just corn and a little bit of butter☺.  Whenever I see recipes calling for anything other than corn and butter that are called creamed corn...I can't help wincing.  It's not that I am the guardian of the concept or anything.  I just like to keep those flavors in other dishes like the Creamy Corn Pudding Soufflé.

As a child, I spent hours sitting on my grandparents' counter top watching them cream corn.  As I got older, I spent my fair share of time and labor shucking bushels of corn so we could freeze it for the fall and winter (it is a must on our Thanksgiving menu).  In college (and without the really cool gadget), I even went as far as creaming the corn by hand.  The creaming process begins by cutting down the middle of each corn row with a sharp knife.  Then using the back side of the knife, you extract the corn pulp and milk.  This process can produce equally delicious results, but it is far more labor intensive.  My dear grandmother took pity on me when I told her how I was going about it and I had a corn cutter of my very own in the mail that week!  And that cutter is working just as well now as the day I broke it in.

Now about that cutter...

This is it.  

The teeth and straight edge on the cutter.

To cream the corn, set the corn cutter over a large bowl.  Firmly holding the cutter and corn, rake the corn over the teeth and across the straight edge...

to extract all of the corn pulp and milk.

Give the corn a little turn and repeat, turning after each pass, until the corn has been completely creamed.

The pulp and milk.

Quick tip-- place the end of the corn cutter up against a wall covered with a towel.  This will help you keep the bowl and cutter in place.  Also, remove anything close by as the corn will splatter slightly as you cream it.  

Cook over the lowest heat setting with a little bit of butter, covered, for several hours or until starches have naturally thickened the creamed corn and the color is a deep golden yellow.

Season with kosher salt to taste and you are good to go. 

(This giveaway is now closed)

I am fairly certain that many of you don't have a corn cutter.  So with fond memories of my grandmother's intervention, I am going to spread my own gospel of corn creaming and give away not one, but two corn cutters to my wonderful readers and followers☺.  To enter for a chance to win, leave a comment in the comments section below describing your favorite recipe using corn.  For a second chance, leave a separate comment below telling me you follow me on Facebook.  The winner will be randomly chosen.  This giveaway, sponsored by yours truly, will be open until Monday August 27, 2012 (open to U.S. and Canadian residents only).  The winner will be announced next Wednesday August 29, 2012.  Good luck!


Sunday Dinner

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Hickory Smoked Barbecue Chicken
Sliced Garden Tomatoes
Buttermilk Biscuits

Icebox Oreo Cheesecake

Two institutions of American food turned 100 years old in 2012.  Julia Child's 100th birthday, which she missed seeing by only eight years, was just this past week.  The Oreo celebrated its century on the food scene this past Spring.  I have been waiting for an excuse to make this cake ever since, but no viable excuse presented itself.  So I just made it because it was there.  

Unlike a regular cheesecake that is baked, this recipe uses a pudding mixture made from milk, yolks, flour, and white chocolate to stabilize the cream cheese and give it that cheesecake-like texture.  Broken Oreos are layered between the cream cheese mixture for more Oreo flavor.  Just before serving, I like to top it off with a garnish of lightly sweetened whipped cream rosettes and mini-Oreos.  The mini cookies showcase the flavor tucked inside and the whipped cream adds another element of creamy goodness.  This no-bake recipe is an excellent choice for a summer dessert.


Creamy Corn Pudding Soufflé

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August means corn here in the Midwest.  Even with drought plaguing much of the Corn Belt, I have found that sweet corn prices have not jumped through the roof...yet.  One can only hope that our farmers can salvage something out of this dry growing season.  

I hope we can do sweet corn growers proud with this dish.  I made a few adjustments to the original recipe.  While basil and jalapeño were prominently featured in the original recipe, I wanted to highlight the sweetness of the corn and the creaminess of the cheesy custard.  Basil can be assertive in flavor while jalapeño can be inconsistent on the scoville scale.  Instead, I add fresh chives to replace the fresh herb and cayenne to provide a spicy kick to the dish. I also mix in a tad of cornmeal to add to the corn pudding base. Once you get the texture and flavor in every bite of this souffle, I am sure you'll be pairing it up as a side with several main dishes in your repetoire.


Caramelized Peaches and Burrata Cheese

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This is one of those weeks that I will be sharing a couple of recipes from our Sunday dinner.  I do this for two reasons-- 1. It is peach and corn season and 2. I have made both recipes three times in the past month (yeah, that good). 

I was inspired to create this recipe after making the strawberry caprese salad and reading an article in Fine Cooking.  Since I am a big fan of the sweet and savory combination,  I wanted to highlight another favorite summer fruit in a similar manner with a few changes.  Instead of using freshly sliced peaches, I caramelize peach quarters in a cast iron skillet with a bit of butter and sugar.  Once each side becomes sweet, browned and sticky, I cut each quarter in half.  Cooking them in larger pieces keeps the slices from cooking all the way through so you don't wind up with a mushy, over cooked slice.  It is also important to use ripe, but firm peaches for this recipe.  If you are not familiar with Burrata, it is fresh mozzarella that is grated and mixed with heavy cream.  The mixture is then wrapped in fresh mozzarella.  Slice it open and enter a creamy, cheesy heaven.

Once plated, I drizzle the peach slices and the cheese with a lemon, thyme and honey vinaigrette.  Serve on some toasted multi-grain bread for an added nutty flavor and I guarantee you will be adding this one to your summer recipe repertoire.


Sunday Dinner

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Haricot Vert and New Potato Salad

Lemon Meringue Tart

Anyone want to hear about my kitchen/bathroom drain disaster last night and this afternoon??  Yeah, didn't think so.  I am just glad it was fixed in time for me to finish this tart and get dinner on the table.

Normally one sees this type of dessert in pie form, but as you may know, I am partial to my sweet tarts.  In my opinion, the crust-to-filling-to-topping ratio is better and well... I just like it this way.

I use a standard lemon meringue recipe, but instead of all water, I use a little milk for a more pudding-like texture instead of the usual congealed jello.  I also enrich the filling with a few more yolks and some butter for an extra smooth consistency.  Topped with a fool-proof, weep-free meringue, this is the ultimate lemon meringue dessert (at least in my book).

Sunday Dinner one year ago


Southern Pound Cake

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If you follow my facebook page, you know that I was out of my kitchen this past Sunday and was unable to share our weekly Sunday dinner.  We were enjoying time with family up North, but I certainly didn't go empty handed.  

Like my mom's Chocolate Pound Cake, this is a treasured family recipe from my Great Aunt Margaret.  We didn't have many sweets growing up (making up for that in my adult life), so when they did appear on the table or in the picnic basket, they were thoroughly enjoyed.  I have memories associated with just about every slice of pound cake I ate in my youth.

This is a pretty standard southern pound cake. You can taste the sweet, creamed butter, the floral essence of vanilla and the kiss of lemon, but then there is that something.  It's that something you just can’t put your finger on.  It rounds out all the flavors into one delicious slice of heaven. That secret ingredient is ground mace. What is ground mace you ask?  It is the ground outer membrane of the nutmeg nut.  It is warm and spicy like nutmeg, but more subtle in flavor and devoid of the little black flecks that nutmeg leaves behind.   

So please, if you do not have any ground mace, pick some up on your next trip to the market and make this cake!  Then resist the urge to eat the cake on the day you make it (torture, I know). Trust me, letting it rest a day gives it that next day better goodness.  Once it is completely cool, put it on your cake plate and cover with a dome or just wrap it in aluminum foil and walk away. OK, maybe steal one of those crispy, buttery crumbs that accidentally fell of the edge of the cake and then walk away. Grab a slice for breakfast with your morning coffee, steal a slice for an afternoon snack, or serve it as dessert with some berries and ice cream. 


Grilled Ham Steaks

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I am sure many of you throw your share of pork on the grill during the summer.  I know I do. Smoked pulled pork and grilled pork chops come to my mind.  Both are good representations of the other white meat.  But where on earth is the pink part of the pig, you know, the ham?  Do we consume too much of it during the winter and spring holiday celebrations that we leave it for a humble deli sandwich during the summer?  Well, not me.  I think a juicy ham meal is right for all seasons. 

A simple marinade of brown sugar, apricot jam, and Dijon mustard is all you need to achieve a perfectly tasty and juicy glaze for a couple of bone-in ham steaks.  Marinate the ham steaks the night before, then grill them over some glowing embers until caramelized and warmed through.  This is dinner on the table in twenty minutes.  Serve the ham with a side of succotash, some hot biscuits (gotta get to that recipe soon) and sliced peaches (because they taste really good with a bite of ham) and you have a simple and delicious summer supper.


Corn and Lima Bean Succotash

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If you are looking for a delicious way to eat your veggies, you will find it in this recipe for succotash.  Flavors from a variety of sources come together to make a perfect side dish (especially during the summer) to a sandwich or main-dish meats.  You can even make a meal of it with a nice piece of bread or a buttered biscuit.  

I am a lover of all varieties of Lima beans, but you'll note that in this recipe I use Fordhook Lima beans.  These are the largest of the Lima bean family.  They are the meatiest of the Lima bean varieties and have a superior texture and buttery taste.  I have had success with growing them in my garden.  Unfortunately, they are hard to come by in local farmstands.  But my local market does carry a quality frozen brand.  

I know that not everyone is a fan of Lima beans, but with this recipe I bet you will be able to trick your kids (and possibly yourself) with the sweetness of the corn.  Before they know it, they'll have eaten red pepper and maybe even *gasp* a Lima bean!   


Strawberry Caprese Salad

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Now that strawberry season is sadly coming to an end in certain parts of the country, I couldn't let the summer recipes slip away without sharing this sensational salad.  In fact, we enjoyed it twice in one week.  And for me to cook the same thing twice in one week... Well, let's just say that's almost unheard of in my kitchen.

I have had strawberries, mozzarella and basil with a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar before and it is delicious, but I really like the use of white balsamic vinegar in this recipe.  It keeps the colors bright and fresh.  A little sugar, honey and garlic help to balance the sweet and the savory-- a combination that you know I adore.

I use small balls of mozzarella called pearls, but you can use whatever size fresh mozzarella you can find and cut it into pieces.  Same goes for the berries.  Serve it on top of slices of toasted baguette for a lovely appetizer or starter to a meal, spoon some on top of a bed of peppery arugula for a light lunch, or simply set out the bowl with toothpicks and let your family and guests dig in.


Breakfast Grain Salad with Almonds, Blueberries, and Peaches

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As good as a comforting bowl of oatmeal can be to start the day, it is nice to come across a recipe that utilizes those morning oats in a cool way for hot summer days.

I am showcasing two summer fruits, blueberries and peaches, in this salad along with toasted almonds, but you can use just about any fruit or nut to suit your own taste.  Since I've included almonds, I also use almond oil to lightly toast the grains before cooking.  Don't have almond oil? Use any other neutral tasting oil, like safflower or canola.  As far as a sweetner, I have listed several that you can use.  Brown rice syrup, pure maple syrup, and honey are all good options.

The grain part of the recipe is best made the day before you plan to serve it in order for the flavors to develop.  This helps to make it a perfect breakfast for entertaining a weekend breakfast/brunch gathering.  On that note, instead of tossing the fruits and nuts with the grains, I like to serve it buffet style and have my family or guests serve themselves with as much or as little of the accompaniments as they like.  It is a healthy, satisfying, and tasty way to start the day.

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