Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Texas Family Gathering

After a week of extremely cold temps in Tennessee, it was such a welcome relief as we flew into Texas and greeted by temps in the 70's.  This really made me ready for spring to arrive.  As soon as we made it to mama's, she had food on the table and most importantly a carrot cake waiting to be devoured.  Mama just happens to make the best carrots cake I have ever eaten.

Carrot Cake, Family.Jennifer Willard Photography,

Carrot Cake, Family.Jennifer Willard Photography,
Carrot Cake
1 1/3 cup oil
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon extract
3 cups grated carrots, do not use pre-grated as they are to thick.
1 cup toasted chopped pecans
Toast pecans in a 350' preheated oven for 6-7 minutes.  Let cool and chop.
Mix all ingredients together, including toasted pecans.  
Spoon batter into a tube pan that has been sprayed well with baking spray.  
Bake in a preheated oven at 350' for 1 hour.
Icing Ingredients:
1 (3 ounce) package Philadelphia Cream Cheese
4-5 Tablespoons concentrated frozen orange juice, thawed.
1 pound box powdered sugar
Icing Directions:
Mix all ingredients together to spreading consistency and spread on cooled cake, pooling any leftover in the middle.

The buttercups were already in full bloom around the lawn.

After a full day of shopping we met up with brother Bob and his family.   
Carrot Cake, Family.Jennifer Willard Photography,
Stone-Me-brother Bob-Mama

Carrot Cake, Family.Jennifer Willard Photography,
Mama with one of  her grandsons, Brandon.

Carrot Cake, Family.Jennifer Willard Photography,
 Brandon, who just happens to be the most handsome young man in Navarro County.

Carrot Cake, Family.Jennifer Willard Photography,
Nephew Brandon-Me-Bob
9 out of 10 youngsters get their greatness from their Aunt.  Thats right, uh-huh.

Carrot Cake, Family.Jennifer Willard Photography,
Brandon-Me-Brother Bob.  
My brother has the best sister in the world, just saying.

Carrot Cake, Family.Jennifer Willard Photography,
Jonathan-Great Aunt Bee-Nolan

Carrot Cake, Family.Jennifer Willard Photography,
You can't wrap love in a box, but you can wrap a person in a hug.

Carrot Cake, Family.Jennifer Willard Photography,
 Mama with Nolan

Carrot Cake, Family.Jennifer Willard Photography,
 The charming Heather

Carrot Cake, Family.Jennifer Willard Photography,

Our last day of visiting before we returned home was at my nieces house.  Jennifer of http://jenniferwillardphotography.com was kind enough to give me some photography pointers.  There is no way my pictures will ever be as great as hers, but with the few tips maybe I can become better.

Carrot Cake, Family.Jennifer Willard Photography,

He's just so adorable...

Monday, February 16, 2015

Our Valentine's Dinner Party

It was an evening of dinner and dancing.  Our friends Carleen, Daniel, Helen and Don arrived and we began with these delicious cocktails called KINKY Bubbles.  KINKY Liqueur is a natural mixture of Super Premium Vodka distilled five times with succulent mango, blood orange liqueur and passion fruit.  They were sweet, just like my man.

KINKY Bubbles
Serves 1
2 ounces KINKY Liqueur
2 ounces prosecco or champagne
maraschino cherries
Drop maraschino cherry into glass.
Add KINKY Liqueur.
Fill will prosecco or champagne.

Stone and I were ready to get this evening started.  Earlier in the day we had moved the furniture which turns our living room into the perfect dance floor.  The music was cranked up and the laser lights were dancing all over the place. The laser American DJ Micro Galaxian Laser Special Effects Lighting we purchased at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004FODY6E/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1.  This is a great little laser with more than 200 red and green beams. You can have just red, just green or mix them together. The lights blink to the beat of the music. The faster the music, the faster the lights blinked.

Helen and Don, dancing the night away...

Daniel and Carleen danced until they dropped.

The table was set with napkins that I shaped into roses.  I then went out to our lawn and cut some stems from our magnolia tree for the leaves.  The table was lined from one end to the other with candles in clear bottles glowing throughout the evening.  Don, who is skilled with the Green Egg, smoked pork that Helen had brined beforehand.  They make the perfect team and the results were succulent.  I made, to go along with the pulled pork, these Jalapeño Hushpuppies that were indeed very spicy and yummy.  With that I made some spicy collard greens that were the best I'd ever had and will definitely be making them again.  And lastly, Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese.  What's not to like when you have pasta and cheese?  All this cooking and I forgot to photograph it.  That was a first.

Jalapeño Hushpuppies
Ingredients: makes 36 hushpuppies
1 1/2 quarts peanut oil, for frying
1 1/2 cups self-rising cornmeal
1 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 (7-ounce) can diced jalapeño peppers, drained or 3/4 cup fresh jalapeños, seeded and finely diced
1 (15-ounce) can creamed corn
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Paula Deen's Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce, for dipping: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/sweet-and-spicy-chili-sauce-recipe.html
Heat the oil to 350' in a deep-fryer or dutch oven.
In a 1 quart mixing bowl, stir the cornmeal, flour, onion, jalapeño, corn, and eggs, until blended.  Allow to stand 5 minutes.
Drop the batter by teaspoonfuls into the hot oil.  Don't overcrowd; leave room for the hushpuppies to be turned.  Cook the hushpuppies until golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Keep the cooked hushpuppies warm in an oven while cooking the remaining batter.  Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste, and transfer them to a serving dish.  Serve with Paula Deen's Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce, if desired.  Recipe adapted from:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/trisha-yearwood/jalapeno-hushpuppies-recipe.html
These are perfect fried ahead, let cool.  Freeze and when you want them, bake on cookie sheet for 30 minutes on 250'.


These were the best collard greens I had ever eaten.
Spicy Collard Greens 
Ingredients: Serves 6
2 pounds collard greens, rinsed
5 slices think bacon, diced
1 large onion
3/4 cup chicken broth
3 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon tabasco sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Use a knife to cut on either side of the large rib running up each collard green leaf.  Remove it and discard it.  You don't need to go all the way up the leaf, just remove the thickest part.  For smaller leaves, just remove the stem.  Stack about 4-5 leaves, roll them up, and cut into 1/2" strips.  Repeat with remaining leaves.
Cook bacon in a large pot over medium heat until crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate.
Add onion to bacon fat and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened.
Add broth, vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, and tabasco sauce to pot.  Stir to combine.
Add collard greens and use tongs to turn and mix them until they reduce in size some.  Cover, turn heat to low and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Before serving, sprinkle bacon on top and season to taste with salt and pepper.

One last quick picture before we sat for dinner.

Smokey Gouda Mac and Cheese
Serves: 4
2 rounded cups dry macaroni, cooked in well salted water until just al dente, and drained.
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups (8 ounces) smoked Gouda Cheese (grated), plus more for topping
2 slices bacon, cook and crumble for topping, optional.
Set oven to 350'.
Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour.  Whisk to combine, and cook for a minute or so, stirring constantly.
Add the milk and whisk to combine, continuing to heat until the milk comes to a simmer and is thickened.
Take the pan off the heat and stir in the cheese, stir until all of the cheese is incorporated and the sauce is smooth.  Add salt and black pepper taste.
Mix the macaroni with the sauce, and pour into a baking dish or individual dishes.  Bake for about 30 minutes until bubbling throughout.
Sprinkle more cheese on top and put under the broiler until the cheese is browned.
Sprinkle on bacon, optional.

It wouldn't be Valentine's without chocolate cover strawberries that I had assembled earlier in the day.

Happy 9th Birthday Lucy
Lucy, who when guest arrives, typically will greet them, spin around a few times, then make her way to her bed.  Maybe it was because it was her birthday, but she wanted to be part of this party.  She was underfoot a good part of the night.  Once I even stepped on her, poor baby.  I didn't mean to, she's just so small I didn't see her. Numerous times when we were dancing I would see her in the middle of the dance floor sitting and looking up like she was saying, pick me up, I want to dance too.  Since it was her birthday, maybe she thought the party was for her.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Freezer Apple Pie Filling

I love the ease of pulling a bag of Apple Pie Filling from my freezer and thawing.  While at the same time I'm making up my favorite pie crust or cobbler crust.  I then put the crust in the refrigerator where it will remain until it is rollable, at least four-five hours.  Actually I usually make it up the day before and leave it in the refrigerator overnight.  Sometimes I have some pie crust in the freezer, in that case I just take it out and thaw in the refrigerator at the same time I do the pie filling.  When ready to make pie, roll out the crust, empty the bag of filling into crust and top with remaining crust or your favorite topping.  Bake as usual.  Now thats EASY...  

Freezer Apple Pie Filling, Food Saver
Freezer Apple Pie Filling
3 Tablespoons lemon juice, use fresh.
18 cups, packed of thinly sliced apples
3 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup cornstarch
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
10 cups water
10 Tablespoons butter
Freezer Apple Pie Filling, Food Saver
In a large bowl, throw in apples with lemon juice and set aside. 

Freezer Apple Pie Filling, Food Saver
Pour water into a large pot over medium heat.  Combine granulated sugar, light brown sugar,  cornstarch, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Add to water, stir well, and bring to a boil.  Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Freezer Apple Pie Filling, Food Saver
Add apples and return to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer until apples are soft, about 7-8 minutes.  Add 10 Tablespoons butter, stir until melted.  Cool for 30 minutes.

Freezer Apple Pie Filling, Food Saver
Scoop into 5 freezer bags and using your Food Saver http://www.foodsaver.com/vacuum-sealers/ seal the bags.   

Freezer Apple Pie Filling, Food Saver
Let come to room temperature then place in freezer.  Can be stored for up to 12 months.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

White Chocolate Raspberry Pie

After beginning Super Bowl Sunday with a Mahjong victory Buck, whom I call Ralphy settled in for an evening of dinner and watching the game.  Karen and Ralphy have joined Stone and I for five years now to watch the Super Bowl.   Every year I make up a list of prediction questions for each of us to answer.  Stone won the first year, followed by Karen two years running.  I won last year and Karen brought in the win again this year.   This makes it fun for folks like me, who do not really get into football.  I like the half-time, the commercials, and I love the cooking.  Super Bowl and food go together.  
A couple months ago I saw this recipe for White Chocolate Raspberry Pie and I said to Stone, "I will have to make this for Ralphy."  He loves raspberries.  This pie turned out to be very, very good.  I will definitely be making it again.  

Blind Bake Pie Crust, heavy whipping cream vs. whipping cream,Jell-o Vanilla Pudding and Pie Filling, White Chocolate Raspberry Pie, Super Bowl 2015.,
 White Chocolate Raspberry Pie
1 basic 9" Pie Crust
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 2/3 cups milk
1 (3 ounce) package Jell-o Vanilla Pudding and Pie filling mix (not instant)
3/4 cup white baking chips, I like Ghirardelli Classic White Baking Chips.
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups fresh raspberries, 2 (6 ounce packages)
1/4 cup white vanilla milk chips
Blind bake Pie Crust: To Blind Bake your Pie Shell, roll our your dough and place in pie pan then chill your pie shell in refrigerator or freezer which is what I do for 30 minutes if your pie pan can go from refrigerator to oven.  Make sure you can put a cold pie plate into the oven without it shattering.  I use a tin pan so there is no problem.  Preheat oven to 450'.  Line Pie shell with circle of parchment or wax paper and fill it with pie weights spread to the edge and place more near the sides than in the center.  Set the pie shell on a baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes, then decrease heat to 375' and bake for 5 minutes more.  Remove pie shell from oven.  Remove parchment and pie weights out of the shell.  Poke the bottom of the pie shell in 3-4 places with a fork to prevent the shell from forming bubbles as it finishes baking.  Return shell to oven and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until it is golden brown.  Cool completely before filling.

Blind Bake Pie Crust, heavy whipping cream vs. whipping cream, Ghirardelli Classic White Baking Chips,White Chocolate Raspberry Pie, Super Bowl 2015.,

In a saucepan, combine gelatin and milk, mix well with whisk.
Let stand five minutes.
Stir in dry pudding mix into the gelatin and milk mixture.  Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and let stand five minutes.
Add 3/4 cups vanilla milk chips to pudding mixture; stir until melted.  Pour into a bowl.  Place plastic wrap over surface of pudding and refrigerate 1 hour to cool.  I actually refrigerated it overnight.  The next day when I was ready to put it in the baked and cooled pie shell I gave the pudding a good stir then continued as follows.
In a small bowl, beat heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form.
Fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into cooled pudding mixture.
Fold in remaining whipping cream.
Spoon pudding mixture into cooled baked pie shell; spread evenly.
Place raspberries on filling.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup or more, he, he, he  over raspberries.
Refrigerate at least 3 hours or until serving time.
Recipe adapted from: http://piemaven.com/print%20white%20chocolate%20raspberry%20pie.html
I always use Heavy Whipping Cream and here is why.
Heavy Whipping Cream vs. Whipping Creamhttp://www.finecooking.com/articles/heavy-cream-vs-whipping-cream.aspx

Blind Bake Pie Crust, heavy whipping cream vs. whipping cream, White Chocolate Raspberry Pie, Super Bowl 2015.,
Check out Stones football socks, you know you like them!!!