Wednesday, January 29, 2014

pan fried okra

If I were asked what foods I couldn't live without, the list would probably go like this...chocolate, cookies, pie, and okra.  Okra is my absolutely favorite vegetable, and it appears on our dinner table at least once a week.  I can't get enough of it!  It just makes me happy.

While I've eaten okra in various formats, I would agree with most southerners that the best way to eat it is fried.  At home, I don't do a lot of deep frying - it takes too much oil and too much time (not to mention how it destroys my clothes with all that splattering).  So, when I make my okra, I pan fry.  Here's my simple method.

I place however much frozen okra in a microwave-safe bowl and defrost in the microwave for about 3 minutes.  Some of it's still frozen, but the outside of most pieces are thawed enough that you can squeeze them.

After pulling my partially-thawed okra out of the microwave, I pour in a few tablespoons of milk or buttermilk.  Buttermilk is a bit thicker, so I like it better.  But, if I don't have any buttermilk in the fridge, regular milk works fine.

I stir the buttermilk or milk into the okra until each piece is coated.  You don't want a lot of leftover liquid in the bottom of the bowl, so I drain if necessary.

Then, I plop in equal amounts of cornmeal and flour (about 1/4 cup each) and top it off with a generous sprinkling of seasoned salt or creole seasoning. 

I stir everything together until each piece of okra is coated. 

Meanwhile, I have a skillet on the stove heating up over medium-high heat.  When it's hot, I put in a few tablespoons oil (just enough to coat the bottom), and allow the oil to heat up.  You know the oil is ready when you can drop a small piece of batter into it and it sizzles.

When the oil has heated up, I throw in the entire bowl of okra and move it around so that every piece is touching the bottom.

I let the bottoms of the okra brown a bit before flipping with a spatula.  I continue to wait and flip, wait and flip, until all sides of the okra are golden brown!

You don't need a lot of oil to make delicious fried okra, and it takes only a few minutes.  The real trick is getting the oil hot enough before you drop it in, otherwise it will stick to your pan and all of the breading will come off (ugh).  Practice makes perfect with this one!

Okay, so I never measure anything when making okra.  But if I had to guess, here's what the actual "recipe" would come out to...

Pan Fried Okra
  • 3 T. oil
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen okra
  • 3 T. buttermilk or milk
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 T. creole seasoning

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat; when the skillet gets hot, add oil and allow to heat.

Meanwhile, defrost okra in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, or until only partially frozen.  Add buttermilk or milk and toss to coat; drain any excess liquid.  Add remaining ingredients and toss to coat.  Pour into hot oil and cook and toss until breading is golden brown.

Friday, January 24, 2014

honey thyme roasted carrots

I wrote a poem tonight.  Check it out...

Carrots are orange.
Carrots are yummy.
Don't you think
They should be covered in honey?

I'm notoriously horrible about fixing exciting main dishes with boring side dishes.  Side dishes just take so much effort!  At least that's what it seems like.

But these carrots are incredibly easy - less than 5 minutes prep.  And another thing I love...they are the perfect recipe to involve the kids in!  Miss Pebbles enjoyed combining the ingredients and stirring.  And, because she helped, she actually ate one!  That's a win in my book!

All you do is combine baby carrots, olive oil, thyme, honey, and salt in a bowl.  Easy peasy.

Stir everything to get the carrots coated and then toss them in a roasting pan.  Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees or until they are tender.

Serve them up and enjoy!

Honey Thyme Roasted Carrots
adapted from "Taste of Home, December 2013"
  • 2 cups baby carrots
  • 1-2 t. dried thyme
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1/2 t. salt

In a large bowl, mix together olive oil, honey, and seasonings.  Add carrots and toss to coat.  Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until tender.  Serves 2-4

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

easy microwave butter toffee

Cookie Bandit is a HUGE fan of toffee.

For years, I have surprised him with homemade toffee from various sources - craft fairs, produce stands, fudge shops - but it's always so expensive that I have to keep those gifts few and far between.  On many occasions, I've wondered about the possibility of making it myself, but I tend to ruin any recipe that calls for a candy thermometer.  One of these days I'll figure it out...but this isn't the day.

So, you can imagine my utter glee when I found this recipe for a toffee that was both easy and made in the microwave!  I was thrilled, but I didn't tell anyone about it, still fully confident that I would manage to destroy it.

Well, looky here!

I DID IT!  This toffee is delicious, looks beautiful, and actually is easy!  Cookie Bandit was impressed with it, too.  No more buying toffee for us!

All you need to do is put some sugar, water, butter, and corn syrup in a microwave safe bowl.

Microwave it on high for 4 will look like this.  Stir it up!

Microwave an additional 6 to 8 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes, until it's thickened and this.  Add vanilla.

Pour the toffee onto a baking pan that's been covered in foil.  Immediately, sprinkle chocolate chips over the top.

Wait a minute for the chocolate chips to melt, and then spread them evenly over the top of the toffee.  Add some chopped walnuts for an added touch.

Let the toffee cool completely before breaking it into pieces.  This recipe yields an entire pound - enough for sharing!

Easy Microwave Butter Toffee
from Gooseberry Patch Christmas 10th Anniversary
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 T. water
  • 1 T. dark corn syrup
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup chopped walnuts

Line a 13"x9" baking pan with ungreased aluminum foil; set aside.

Place sugar, butter, water, and corn syrup in a large microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave on high setting for 4 minutes; stir.  Heat an additional 6 to 8 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes, until thickened and golden.  Add vanilla; stir well.  Pour into prepared baking pan.  Sprinkle chocolate chips over top; spread melted chocolate.  Sprinkle with walnuts.  Let cool completely; break into pieces.  Makes about one pound.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

sourdough biscuits

Back when we looked like this...

...and that was a few years ago...but back then, we got engaged.  My father-in-law announced that he was taking care of the whole rehearsal dinner.  And boy did he!

He picked out one of his own prize lambs to slaughter for the big day, and he smoked it for about 4 days before the event.  He made several different kinds of homemade ice cream, froze them in individual containers, placed those containers in buckets of water, froze those buckets, and then covered the buckets in frozen sleeping bags.  I get tired just thinking about it!

And he also experimented with a sourdough biscuit recipe until he got it just right.  :)

Everything turned out beautifully.  The lamb was delicious, the ice cream stayed frozen despite the August heat, and the bread was such a hit that I asked for the recipe.  Here it is!

First, dissolve yeast in water.  Then, add all of the remaining ingredients and knead until the dough is no longer sticky, adding flour if necessary.  Place it in a greased bowl and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, roll it out about two inches thick...

...and then cut it into biscuits.

Bake the biscuits at 450 degrees for about half an hour or until beautifully golden.

And that's it!  The only rising that takes place is what happens overnight in the fridge, so these are a relatively quick fix.  The sourdough flavor is very subtle, so even sourdough haters will dig in to these!

Sourdough Biscuits
  • 1 pkg. active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 t. salt
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 4 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. baking soda
  • 6 or more cups flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add remaining ingredients and stir or knead. Continue adding flour until dough is no longer sticky. Place dough in a greased bowl - cover and place in refrigerator overnight. The next day, roll out dough to a 2-inch thickness and cut into biscuits. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake at 450 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

Monday, January 13, 2014

mississippi mud cake

I've been attempting to lose weight, therefore I've decided to share with you a recipe for one of the richest, chocolatiest cakes ever.

Yeah...never said my goal was to make any sense.

Anyway, this cake is fabulous.  Seriously, it's so good you'll want to cry.  Or giggle.  Or whatever it is that you do when you eat fabulous cake.  Personally, I do a happy dance.

I got this recipe from my mother-in-law who got it from her mother.  It's something that's been served at family gatherings on multiple occasions, and I've known for a while that it's one of Cookie Bandit's favorites.  So when I was trying to figure out what special dessert to make him on his birthday, I instantly thought of this!

This cake is a delicious combination of three things - fudgy, nutty, dense chocolate cake...creamy marshmallow...and rich and thick chocolate icing.  Oh, be still my heart!

Here's how you make it...

You cream butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy.  And by the way, you will need electric beaters for this.  I'm still not one of the cool kids who own a Kitchen Aid...a hand-held mixer will work.  But you definitely need a little more than elbow grease.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.

Add flour, vanilla, and cocoa and mix well.  Your batter will be pretty darn dense...that's a good thing!

Fold in chopped pecans and coconut and spread into a greased baking pan.

Bake the cake and then spread marshmallow creme over the top immediately after you pull it out of the oven.  The marshmallow will get all gooey and melty, so it won't be too difficult to spread around.

Let the cake cool.  Meanwhile, whip up the chocolate icing!  Spread it over the top of the cooled cake.  There's a lot of icing, so you'll end up with a deliciously thick layer of it.

Place candles in cake and get a toddler to sing a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" - oh don't have to...that's just me. :)

Cookie Bandit and Miss Pebbles...getting ready to blow out birthday candles!

Serve with a huge glass of milk...this cake is rich!

Yum. :)

Mississippi Mud Cake
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup four
  • 2 T. cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 4 oz. shredded coconut
  • 7 oz. marshmallow creme
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1 t. vanilla

Cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add vanilla, flour, and cocoa to creamed mixture; blend well.  Fold in pecans and coconut on low speed.  Pour into a greased 9x13" pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
Spread marshmallow creme over warm cake.  Cool.

To make icing, combine all ingredients and mix with blender until smooth.  Spread over marshmallow creme.
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