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Race Day Bananas

morris-lighthouseTomorrow morning I am running my first ever race, the Folly Beach “Save the Lighthouse” half marathon.  Here is a picture of the lighthouse- who wouldn’t want to save that!  I am getting fairly nervous as it has been snowing and icing since Tuesday which means that I have not gone for a run since Monday which actually is not really a big deal- more to the point, I am nervous about running and being able to complete 13.1 miles without crawling/crying across the finish line.  I have been googling all morning race day preparations, and a lot of websites and blogs suggest eating a banana and some toast for breakfast pre race.  Well, that is not much of a recipe so I thought I would share a great banana bread recipe instead, and while I will not eat this tomorrow morning, I will look forward to it on Sunday morning- if I can actually get out of bed.  Will keep you posted on how the race goes- wish me luck!

Banana Bread

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

Snow Day Pretzels

winter funIt is supposed to snow in Charleston tomorrow.  People are initiating emergency guidelines.  We are preparing for total shut down for the forecasted one inch of snow.  I haven’t heard anything yet about potential school closings, but I am getting prepared to have a rambunctious 10 year old home from school either tomorrow or Wednesday.  And what better way to spend the day than making soft pretzels!  My only concern about this is it being so cold in the house that the dough won’t rise properly, but I will keep you posted on that when we make them.  This is a picture from a long weekend up in the mountains last February- I seriously doubt that we will get anywhere near that much snow- but the kiddos sure did have fun!

Soft Pretzels

Ingredients:

1 cup milk
1 package active dry yeast
3 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (2 tablespoons for the dough; 3 tablespoons for brushing on finished pretzels)
1 teaspoon fine salt
1/3 cup baking soda
Coarse salt, to taste

Directions:

Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it’s about 110 degrees (alternatively, warm it in the microwave for about 40 seconds); pour into a medium bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Let the yeast soften, about 2 minutes; stir in the brown sugar and 1 cup of the flour with a wooden spoon. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and stir into the mix. Add the remaining 1 ¼ cups flour and fine salt to make a sticky dough. Add more flour if necessary (you’ll probably need a few tablespoons) to form dough into a ball. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour if needed, until smooth but still slightly tacky, about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball, place in a clean, lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Punch the dough to deflate it, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Roll and stretch each piece with the palms of your hands into a 30-inch rope, holding the ends and slapping the middle of the rope on the counter as you stretch. Form each into a pretzel shape (form a U-shape, then holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press firmly onto the bottom of the pretzel).
Dissolve the baking soda in 3 cups warm water in a shallow baking dish. Gently dip each pretzel in the soda solution, then arrange on a prepared baking sheet (re-shaping if necessary) and sprinkle lightly with course salt. Bake until golden, 10 – 12 minutes. Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter and brush on baked pretzels. The pretzels are best enjoyed fresh on the same day.
*If you prefer a cinnamon sugar topping, omit the coarse salt. Brush with butter after baking and sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar (1/2 cup sugar plus about 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon)

 

 

 

 

Conch Fritters

walker dolphinI really hate clutter- so much so that I throw things away by mistake and then rage around the house looking for them later but that is neither here nor there.  So this past Christmas, instead of giving Walker some toy or thing that will just clutter up his room,  we very selflessly gave him a trip, and last Friday, Corby, Walker and I went down to Atlantis in the Bahamas for the long weekend.  See what I mean- super selfless.  It was such a drag to leave to cold for 3 days to sit in the warm sun by the most spectacular blue water.  Anything for the kids, right?  We had the best time.  My brother and sister also joined in on the “no stuff” Christmas for Walker and gave him excursions while we were down there, so one morning he swam with the dolphins and the next we went snorkeling through the “ruins” of Atlantis.  Of course, while we were there we had to try some local food, and what better than conch.  Here is a great recipe for conch fritters- a little taste of the Bahamas.  Walker absolutely loved them- enjoy!

Conch Fritters

Ingredients:

1 quart oil for frying
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
ground cayenne pepper to taste
seasoned salt to taste
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chopped conch meat
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Dipping Sauce:
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Directions:
Heat the oil in a large pot or deep fryer to 365 degrees.
In a bowl, mix the flour, egg, and milk. Season with cayenne pepper, seasoned salt, salt, and pepper. Mix in the conch meat, onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic.
Drop the batter by rounded tablespoons into the hot oil, and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
In a bowl, mix the ketchup, lime juice, mayonnaise, hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Serve dipping sauce on the side with the fritters.

tomato pieIn the last two days, trailers for new television shows about South Carolina have been aired.  Please please please do not believe that South Carolina is anything like what is depicted in these shows.  The first one I saw (and I have been hearing about this upcoming show for a while) is called Southern Charm and will be airing on Bravo on March 3rd.  To be honest, I almost threw up when I saw the trailer as it is so ridiculous and has absolutely NOTHING to do with Charleston or anything remotely like “Southern Charm”.  The second show is from the producers of Jersey Shore which should tell you something right there.  It is called Party Down South and is filmed in Murrells Inlet.  This show is actually not even worthy of comment.  Now that I have had my say about the ridiculousness of these shows and how they are in no way a representation of what South Carolinians are like, I do have to say that I can’t wait to watch them.  Dirty reality shows can be so entertaining.  To combat my icky feeling about these shows and to remind myself that we have many many wonderful things I love about this state, here is a delicious and very traditional South Carolina dish- Tomato Pie.

Tomato Pie

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 (10 ounce) can refrigerated flaky biscuits

3 tomatoes, thinly sliced

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon salt-free garlic and herb seasoning blend
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a medium baking dish.
Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Place celery, onion, and green pepper into the skillet, and saute until tender.
Press biscuits into the prepared baking dish to form a crust. Layer with the tomatoes. Top with the sauteed vegetables.
In a medium bowl, mix Cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, and salt-free seasoning blend. Spread evenly over the vegetables.
Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until bubbly and lightly browned. Cool 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

 

Butterfinger Bark

butterfinger barkI think I have said this before, and it should really come as no surprise since I am in love with baking and desserts, but I have a ridiculous sweet tooth.  This attribute fortunately did not get passed down to my son Walker.  He likes candy, but he could really go either way on it.  I will occasionally buy him a Kit Kat at the gas station, and while he seems excited and very appreciative, sometimes he will just hold onto it and I will find it not eaten in his room later.  If you give me candy, it is eaten immediately.  Walker also usually sticks to one thing that he likes for a while and then moves onto the next.  He was a big fan of oreo Hershey bars for a while, and then Kit Kats.  The other day in the grocery store I asked him if he wanted anything, and he came back with a Butterfinger bar which was a little surprising since he has never chosen that before.  I love Butterfingers but only the little bite ones- I can’t eat a full bar- well ok I could but would prefer something else.  However, in high school, I used to get soft serve with Butterfinger all mixed together in one of those “blasts”- it was my favorite thing for all of junior year.  I came across this wonderful blog Cookies and Cups (www.cookiesandcups.com) and they had posted a recipe for homemade butterfinger bark.  It uses candy corns which is really awesome, so I can’t wait to try it!

Butterfinger Bark (from www.cookiesandcups.com)

Ingredients:

5 cups candy corn
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
20 oz chocolate for melting, divided in half

Directions:

Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Melt 10 oz of chocolate over double boiler or in microwave,according to package directions.
Spread the melted chocolate on the foil lined baking sheet, approximately 11″x15″. DOn’t worry too much about the exact measurements, you just want it to be a thin layer.
Place baking sheet in fridge to chill quickly, about 10 minutes.
In a large microwave safe bowl melt your candy corn, 1 minute and then stir, then in 30 second increments until melted, stirring after each 30 seconds.
Immediately stir in peanut butter. Mixture will be very thick. Use those muscles!
Spread it on top of chilled chocolate.
Place this back in the fridge for another 20 minutes, until chilled.
Melt the remaining chocolate and spread it on top of the peanut butter layer.
Chill again at least 20 minutes.
Cut into triangle shaped pieces.

anna coldEveryone has been talking about this Polar Vortex that is causing the ridiculous cold all over the place.  It is something crazy like -15 degrees in New York- here is a picture of my adorable niece on her way to school.  It is 20 degrees in Charleston today and it feels like 9.  And compared to New York, I shouldn’t really complain, but guess what, our heat went out.  I waited for the heating guy to come this morning fully dressed, under the covers of my still warm bed, with gloves on, playing Candy Crush on my phone.  Fortunately, he was very speedy and heat was returned to our house.  When I used to live in New York, occasionally we would run out of oil on a very cold day, and I would wait with Walker and both dogs huddled in bed, but the difference is that we had a fire place in our bedroom back then and that made a significant difference.  I was thinking fondly of that fireplace this morning as I waited, and I also started thinking about turning on the oven and sitting next to while I waited but decided that might not be the best idea.  However, thoughts of the oven and Candy Crush did inspire me to look for warm dessert recipes, and this caramel and pear pudding recipe from Taste of Home that you make in a slow cooker is just the trick for a cold cold day!

Caramel and Pear Pudding

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup 2% milk
4 medium pears, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup boiling water
Vanilla ice cream, optional

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and cloves. Stir in milk until smooth. Add pears and pecans. Spread evenly into a 3-qt. slow cooker coated with cooking spray.
In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and butter; stir in boiling water. Pour over batter (do not stir). Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours or until pears are tender. Serve warm with ice cream if desired.

Rolo Pretzels Bites

rolo pretzelI hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!  I feel like I have been eating non stop this holiday season, and it has been wonderful.  We spent Saturday night with a bunch of friends and one of the many yummy nibbles served were Rolo pretzel bites.  Such a simple yet awesome snack- salty, sweet, crunchy, chewy- they have everything you could want.  I know I will be making lots and lots of these!

Rolo Pretzel Bites

Ingredients:

20 mini pretzels

20 rolos

20 pecan halves

*or however many you want to make*

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Arrange the pretzels in a single layer on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Place one chocolate covered caramel candy on each pretzel.
Bake for 4 minutes. While the candy is warm, press a pecan half onto each candy covered pretzel. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

 

Figgy-PuddingI have always wondered about figgy pudding- what is it?  I do very much like the line in the Christmas carol about it, demanding figgy pudding is just kind of funny to me.  So, of course, I googled it, and while I don’t think it will make it into the holiday repertoire of traditions, it does sound interesting.

Figgy Pudding

Ingredients:

16 ounces dried figs
1 3/4 cups milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a a medium saucepan, heat milk and chopped figs over medium-low heat but do NOT bring to a boil. Cook for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally. The the milk will soften the figs.  In a medium bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt.  In a large bowl, beat eggs one minute on high. Reduce speed to low and add butter, bread crumbs, orange peel, and warm fig mixture.  Slowly incorporate flour mixture. Beat until just blended.  Pour the mix into the greased bundt pan. Level top as much as possible. Cover the mold with a piece of aluminum foil greased on one side, greased side down.  Place the mold in a roasting pan and place on oven rack. fIll with hot tap water 2 inches up the side of the mold. Bake for 2 hours or until the pudding is firm and it is pulling away from the side of the bundt pan.  Remove the pudding from the water bath. Remove the foil and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before unmolding. Invert bundt pan onto a serving plate and remove mold. It should come away easily.   Serve with a hard sauce.

A Lesson in Chocolate

chocolate 1This past Saturday, we were invited to a friend’s house for a chocolate making lesson which might be the best kind of lesson ever.   Chefs Mark Gray and David Vagasky have started Cacao’s Artisan Chocolate in Charleston (www.cacaoscharleston.com), and their chocolate is really really amazing.  They sell their chocolates in Southern Season in both Charleston and Chapel Hill as well as online.  We had the best time learning all about chocolate (you should never refrigerate it) and tasting many different flavors of truffles, chocolate caramels, chocolate strawberries etc.  The sugar high was pretty epic. chocolate 2 Walker was at the other end of the counter- right by the chefs, and much to his delight and my half-hearted dismay, he ate his weight in samples.  At one point, Chef Gray gave him a piece and said, “It will melt in your mouth.”  Walker ate the piece and with delighted surprise, he exclaimed, “It melted in my mouth, it really melted in my mouth- right then!” So, if you are looking for a super special and delicious gift, look no further than Cacao Chocolate- just divine.

Peppermint Kiss Cookies

peppermint kiss cookieMy sister-in-law is an excellent baker.  She makes the best chocolate chip cookies, brownies, etc, and she is incredibly generous with her baking.  I am not sure where she finds the time as she is also a lawyer.  We went to an oyster roast this past weekend with her and my brother, and she brought for the hosts a mason jar filled with peppermint brownies on the bottom and ginger snaps on top all tied with a pretty ribbon and hand made note card.  I brought nothing (except Michelob Ultra Light in my purse because I knew that they would only have dark fancy beer to drink- pretty classy of me).  Anyway- they were giving us a ride home before they were headed to another party where she had another mason jar filled with treats, and fortunately, they were both tired, so at the last minute decided not to go to the other party, and we got the mason jar!  So, one I should be better about hostess gifts and two, I looked up some ideas for baked gifts, and these peppermint kiss cookies (from www.raininghotcoupons.com) looked like they would be great.

Peppermint Kiss Cookies

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
1 cup softened Butter
1 tsp Peppermint Extract
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Egg
3 cup Flour
3 Candy Canes
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 cup chopped Candy Cane Hershey Kisses
Sugar (to roll cookies in)
36 unwrapped Candy Cane Hershey Kisses

Directions:

Place candy canes in food processor and pulse until they are completely crushed.
Make sure you have room in your refrigerator or freezer for your cookie sheet.
Combine powdered sugar, butter, extracts and egg in large bowl.
Beat until fluffy at medium speed.
Combine flour, crushed candy canes, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.
Add flour mixture to wet mixture and beat until well blended (mixture will be kind of dry).
Stir in chopped kisses.
Shape dough into 1 inch balls; roll in granulated sugar.
Place 1-inch apart on cookie sheet.
Bake for 10-12 minutes in 350 oven until firm up and set.
Remove from oven and immediately press a Candy Cane Kiss in the center of each cookie.
Place cookie sheet into the freezer or refrigerator to keep kisses from melting.

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