Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Easy Peasy

Last night we hosted the Elmores, Jeremy and Nicci, one last time before their exciting but sudden move to Johnson City, TN.  These two have been around my family for years as they have been friends of my brother and his wife since their college days.  We moved to their college town here in KY where the Elmores have been living since they graduated and married.  We are excited for them as they begin their new life in Tennessee, serving at Carson Newman. We're sad, but we know exactly how they feel and rejoice with them in that.  Here is a couple more photos of from the evening.
I know, this is just weird.
Bailey really likes Nicci.  Bailey is praying very hard that the Elmores will find a good home for their dog, Josie, since she can't move to Tennessee with them.  Would YOU be interested???

Let's talk about dessert.  Last night we made pizza, and what goes better with pizza but CHOCOLATE!  We decided to go with Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes.  I found the recipe at Tasty Kitchen.  You will need:
4 1-oz. squares of semi-sweet Baker's chocolate
1 stick of unsalted butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
6 Tbsp flour

Here's what you do:
First, preheat the oven to 425.  Lightly oil 4 custard cups or ramekins.  Microwave the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl for 1-2 minutes and whisk until smooth.  I usually prefer to do this over a double-boiler, but I braved the microwave for the sake of convenience and it turned out fine.  In the same bowl, whisk in the sugar until well-blended.  Then whisk in the eggs and yolks.  Lastly, stir in the flour.  Divide the velvety chocolate mixture amongst the 4 ramekins.  Yes, I just used the word "amongst".  Bake 13-14 minutes until the sides are firm but the center is squishy.  When they come out of the oven, they will look like this:

They are kind of lop-sided and assymetrical, not uniform at all.  But I prefer to think of this dessert as a reflection of those to whom it is being served.  Let them cool in the cups for a minute or two and then invert them onto plates.  You should probably top them with homemade whipped cream or ice cream, at the very least.  We chose homemade vanilla with strawberries.  It was a perfect pair.

Ok, pretend like the above photo doesn't have any shadows and that the scoop of ice cream hadn't fallen off the top of the cake.  Look how the chocolate oozes out!  It is a cozy dessert, perfect for entertaining because it requires just one bowl and a whisk, and bakes up in no time at all.  You'll definitely want to eat this while it's still warm!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Life, Love, and Mocha Silk Pie

Who doesn't love pie?  Apple, blueberry, coconut cream--you name it, somebody loves it.  I haven't made too many pies in my day.  I don't know why, I just haven't.  People are into layer cakes, fancy cookies, and the ever popular high-maintenance cupcake.  I don't get a lot of request for pies, and frankly I don't mind because making pie crust is a lot of work!  However, in an effort to preserve the nostalgia of pie, I vow to become a better and more seasoned pie maker.  Last week I made this:

Mocha Silk Pie.  All credit goes to The Pioneer Woman.  I have wanted to make this ever since I found the recipe here, but it calls for Kahlua and you can't buy that stuff around these parts.  So I just left it out and added melted butter in its place.  It seemed to work out just fine.  I made a couple of other changes from the original recipe as well.  Note: this pie contains raw eggs.  Don't make this or eat this if you have a problem with that. 

For the crust you will need:
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 oz, weight, Semisweet [Baker's] chocolate, grated
2 Tbsp melted butter
Scant pinch of kosher salt

Just go to town chopping those nuts until they're pretty fine.  Not pulverized, just finely chopped.  Put them in a bowl with the brown sugar and the grated chocolate.  I like to use Baker's chocolate for these kinds of things because it's already measured into 1 oz. segments.  Then add the melted butter after it's had a chance to cool so you don't melt the chocolate.  Use a fork to get it all combined and then press it into the bottom of your crust.  It will look like this:

Put it in the fridge to set while you make the filling.  It'll be just fine in there. 

For the filling:
2 sticks room temperature butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp instant espresso
3 oz, weight, semisweet [Baker's] chocolate
1 tsp vanilla
4 whole large eggs

First you'll need to melt the chocolate in the microwave for about 45 seconds [or in a double boiler] and let it cool while you're doing the rest.  Cream the heck out of the butter and sugar.  After that, add in the vanilla and espresso. Once the chocolate is cooled, get all of it into the bowl of your mixer and let it go until just combined.

Here's the fun part.  With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs one at a time over a 20 minute period.  You heard me.  Put one egg in and let it go for 5 minutes.  Then add another, and so on.  Set your timer and do something productive like unloading the dishwasher until it's time to add the next egg.  When you're done you'll havea creamy-dreamy filling for your crust.  I ended up with enough filling for 2 pies so I just whipped up another crust and delivered the second pie to a friend.

This pie will taste better as it sets up in the fridge.  I recommend at least 3 hours.  I would imagine it would be even better frozen, topped with fresh whipped cream and perhaps even more chocolate.  It doesn't seem like the 2 teaspoons of instant espresso is enough at first but believe me, this pie is the perfect mixture of coffee and chocolate.  Let me know what you think!  I hope you'll try it out. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Let's talk about this dog...

Meet Bailey.  She's a mutt.  Well, we think she's a mixture of long-haired daschund [body shape], beagle [bark and face], basset hound [feet], and chocolate lab [coloring].  Who knows!  She was a stray dog that my parents rescued in NC.  They had her for about a month and then gave her to us the day before we moved from Atlanta to KY. 

Here are a few photos I snapped during a 5 minute portion from one of her many, many naps.

The following photos are a portion of what kept her busy this evening.

If you haven't heard from me, don't worry.  Look at what I have to deal with all day.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Al Gore and Spice Cake

What in the world is going on?  Did Al Gore mess with the global temperature again? Last night at 7:45 the heat index was 99 degrees here in central KY.  TOO HOT!  Disclaimer: I never have and never will enjoy any temperature over 80, and that's being generous.  I think I need to live in the extreme northwest, but that's another story for another day.
I know it's July and it's supposed to be hot, but enough already.  I started out with the hot and humid stuff way back in April when I was still living in Atlanta.  So technically I've surpassed the dog days of summer. 
My favorite time of year by far is October through early May.  The rest can go, as far as I'm concerned.  Except of course for our anniversay and my birthday, which are both coming up in August.  But I digress. 
Last night I was really longing for the joys of autumn.  Crisp leaves under my feat, vibrant orange and red ones on the trees.  Sitting by the fireplace [that we don't have] drinking can't come soon enough. 
I set the mood by lighting this candle:

And then I made this:

Zucchini Sweet Potato Bread
Bon Appetit Magazine circa 1992
This recipe is a healthful alternative to theirs.

2 cups flour [I used white whole wheat, but you can use whatever you want]
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups sugar [I used 1 c white, 1 c brown]
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vaninlla
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
1 1/2 cups shredded sweet potato

Preheat your oven to 350.  Spray 2 loaf pans, because this recipe makes 2.  You can eat one and give another one to your neighbor.  Or freeze one.  Or eat one before your husband gets home so he thinks you made it just for him.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Like so.

See all the spicy goodness?  Next, in a large bowl, whisk together the white and brown sugars, applesauce, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla.  Add in the shredded veg.

Then just add in the dry ingredients and stir just to combine.  At this point, you could fold in some walnuts or dried cranberries.  I just didn't happen to have any on hand.  Now just divide your batter between the 2 loaf pans and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Let them cool in the pans for about 15 minutes and then put on a rack to cool completely.

This cake is veeeerrrrry moist. It is really good with coffee or hot tea.  And if you're me, you can smear it with this treasure you found at the Amish store.

Well, I guess I'm going to have to wait a few more weeks for cooler temperatures.  Until then I'll keep enjoying the bounty of summer.  But isn't nutmeg just the best?

Friday, July 23, 2010

I was abducted.

By life, that is.  I was most certainly abducted by life this week.  I haven't had to adhere to any kind of a schedule for many months now, and I kind of like it.  It's not hard to get used to waking early, sipping coffee, reading, and doing other fun stuff.  Of course I manage to get groceries, work out, and dust, but I don't have anyone breathing down my neck to get it done either.  This week was kind of an eye-opener, in a way.  You see, I was asked to teach a kid's cooking class through Campbellsville University.  This involved me waking up by 6:30 so I could be ready to make the 30 minute trip from here to Hodgenville, KY.  I haven't used an alarm clock since the day I lost my job.  I had a lot of fun meeting the kids and teaching them a few new things that they could do in the kitchen.  At the end of the week, they got a folder with all of the recipes that we did so they can do it all at home.  Here are a few photos I managed to get the first day.

The Kids College was only half of my days this week.  On Monday afternoon, Justin and I spoke at a senior citizens luncheon; on Tuesday, we had to go to Louisville.  Wednesday was ah...raining.  So I planned to spend the afternoon recovering for 3 days straight of busyness [it's tough being an introvert].  However, my quiet afternoon was interrupted and before I knew it, it was time for church.  I don't normally attend Wednesday night services but I was asked nicely by my husband to help with a kids movie night.  All I have to say is, it's all fun and games until you have to clean out the popcorn machine.

I've also been busy baking and entertaining.  Well, we entertained once this week but we thought a second time was coming so I did some prep work ahead of time which resulted in this:

Mocha. Silk. Pie.  Oh. My. Stars.  But more on that later.  I'm have to go do something awful...pull weeds.  They're overtaking my walkway and I'm afraid people will start talking. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Militant Muffins

Ok, so there's really nothing militant about this post, but it is eye-catching, isn't it?  I'm willing to be that if you're reading this it's probably because I put that word in the title.  I'm glad you're here!
There may have been a little hostility in my kitchen this morning, though.  See, I had to make this apple pie last night for someone's birthday.  Let me start out by saying that in general, when I bake for someone I don't have much of a desire to eat it.  Whether it's cookies, cake, or bread, I'm ok without a sample.  I'll do a little taste test to make sure it turned out right, but I don't sit around foaming at the mouth because I need to eat it.  Apple pie, however, is different.  Apple pie is the stuff of dreams.  Apple pie is...American, summer [but also fall], and comfort all baked up into a lovely pillow of deliciousness.  And apple pie is not something that can be sampled before delivered to said person.  That presents a two-fold problem.  First, I have no idea if it turned out right.  Sure, it looks nice enough, but what if the apples aren't tender?  What if the crust is soggy?  I guess I'll never know.  I'm pretty sure the person for whom the pie was made would never say anything.  So here it is, my pie, just out there for all the world to see...err, taste. 

The second problem is that because I could not sample this pie, I was feeling kind of deprived.  I've already got the short end of the stick due to my newly found no-carb lifestyle [more on that later].  So this morning when I woke up [well, after the pie was delivered] I decided to do something about it.  It just isn't normal to go days and days without carbs.  I think it causes brain damage. 

Let me start out by saying that today is my favorite kind of day.  It's cooler, and it's pouring down rain. 

This is the view from my desk, aka the kitchen table.  The weather promises to be consistently soggy, which is just right for me.  I know it's weird, go ahead and send your rolling eyes my way.  Due to my deprivation, I decided to make muffins.  I thought to myself, "It's ok.  I'll just work out later."  However, I realized that our treadmill is still in shrinkwrap in the guest room.  So instead of making the maple-y, buttery, pecan-y muffins of my dreams, I went with these.

Blueberry Muffins, the "Right" Way

These muffins are surprisingly moist and delicious. I say this with the utmost respect and admiration for butter and fat. These are the kind of muffins that make you feel good about yourself and your morning. They’re whole grain, oat filled and fruit studded.

Makes 12-15 muffins
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tbsp canola oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper cases or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a medium bowl combine applesauce, buttermilk, vanilla, sugar, oil and egg. Make a well in dry ingredients and add applesauce mixture. Stir until just moist. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.  Just for kicks, top the muffins with a sprinkle of brown sugar or turbinado sugar for a little homey touch.
Bake for 16-18 minutes.

Friday, July 9, 2010


This is a photo of a giantic cantaloupe that I purchased this week.  The subject of this post is the reasons why we should all eat more of this delicious melon.  First of all, this is no cantaloupe at all but rather, a muskmelon.  True cantaloupes are grown in Europe and are much uglier.  No really, they have warts and bumps on the outside. 

One of the biggest struggles with purchasing produce is knowing how to choose a ripe item.  How do I know if a melon is ripe?  You'll want to consider the overall shape, the color, and the stem.  First of all, it should be uniformly spherical without bruises or indentations.  The color should be khaki or tan with no green streaks or spots.  A ripe melon has a strong stem area with no tears.  If there are any tears, you can be sure that that melon was harvested too early.  When they are ready to be harvested, cantaloupes come very easily off their vine. 

What about storing this delicious fruit?  It should be noted that once the melon is picked, it doesn't continue to produce sugars or get sweeter.  If you leave it on the counter at room temperature, it will get softer and sweeter but it won't continue to ripen.  Once sliced, it should be refrigerated and consumed within 2 days. 

Cantaloupes are a good source of betacarotene, potassium, and Vitamin C.  It's especially good to eat on a really hot day because of its high concentration of water. 
Nutrients per 1 cup of raw cantaloupe:

Calories: 56, Fat: 0, Carbohydrate: 13g, Protein: 1.0g, Fiber: 1.0g, Sodium: 14mg, Potassium: 494mg, Vitamin C: 68mg, Vitamin A: 515 RE or 5158 IU, Water: 144g


Wednesday, July 7, 2010


OK, I'll admit it.  I am a total food snob.  I've been this way for years.  Even despite times of extreme financial scarcity, only the best would do.  If I had to choose a 5lb bag of so-so apples from some gigantic farm in Michigan for $4 or just 3lbs of organic, crisp, delicious pink lady apples from a grower in my state for $5 [or more], I'd pick the latter. 

That being said, moving here from a larer city where I had access to locally grown food was a bit daunting.  Not to be a snob---oh wait---but I was not excited about having to shop at Wal-Mart or Kroger.  I dislike Wal-Mart for several reasons.  Suffice it to say, I'm a Target girl.  I don't like Kroger because I think it's overpriced, and the one in our new town happens to be filthy.  I have had several issues with moldy/expired produce with this particular store and have hereafter vowed to never purchase produce there again.  Shew...
I should mention, however, that I'm growing to like getting used to Wal-Mart.  Believe it or not, but this Wal-Mart has a really good [and clean] produce section, and it's priced much better than the yucky stuff at Kroger.

But I digress.  Imagine my delight when at the end of our second week here, I stumbled upon a nice Amish woman who sells her produce twice a week in a parking lot not 5 minutes from our house.  Here is what I was able to get yesterday:

Generally I spend about $15 a week and get everything I need to meet our needs and even a little extra for the freezer.  For example, she sells 12 ears of orn for $3.50.  We eat about 4 a week and freeze the rest for winter.  It really makes me feel like the Proverbs 31 woman: She considers a field and buys it...[verse 16].
With this HOT weather, it really makes me look forward to eating spicy corn chowder on chilly autumn evenings. 

Look at these blackberries!  I'd really like to make this but we're doing a no-carb thing.  So I'll just put them in the freezer for another day when I can have a treat. 

Now let me talk to you about salmon.  Do you like it?  You should try it, even if you've had a bad experience in the past.  This is a gorgeous hunk of the stuff we got last week at Whole Foods.  I'll eat it any which way.  Last night we mixed 1/4 c mayo [made with Canola oil], the zest of 1 lemon, a few dashes of hot sauce, a teaspoon of crushed garlic and salt and pepper to taste.  I spread it all over the fish and baked it at 425 for about 20 minutes.

Well this is a lot of probably useless information but that's my post for today.  Happy Eating!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Grilled Pizza

Over the weekend, we got a grill.  It's enormous.  It's gas with 4 burners and it also has a burner on the side that you can cook on.  I think it's fabulous.  It is just way too hot to cook inside.  We christened it by grilling good ol' American hamburgers for our cookout with Justin's parents.  For the 4th of July, we decided to grill pizza.  Not very American, at least by some standards, but tasty and fun!

I started out by making my pizza dough.  Please do not buy the kind from the store.  It's filled with who knows what.  Taking the time [all of about 10 minutes except for rise time] to make your own is well worth it, and much less expensive. 
Pizza Dough

Begin by adding 1 tsp active dry yeast to 1 1/2 c warm water.  Leave it alone while you do the next part.  Combine 4 c flour and 1 tsp salt in the bowl of your stand mixer.  I've done this by hand and with a handheld mixer and trust me, avoid both if possible.  A stand mixer is the way to go when making any kind of bread.  Anyway, drizzle in 1/3 c good olive oil while the mixer is going on low.  Now go back to your yeast mixture and gently stir it.  Drizzle it into the flour/oil mixture until the dough forms a ball.  Here's where you can use your hands if you're feeling extra muscle-y.  Drizzle a little olive oil onto a clean bowl and toss the dough right in.  Turn it over once or twice to coat it in oil.  Cover it with a clean towell and set in a warm place for 1-2 hours until it rises.  You can also put it in the fridge and it'll rise over about 2 days, if you want to make it on say a Wednesday for the pizza you're going to eat on Friday.  I wouldn't keep it in the fridge longer than 3 days.  It also freezes beautifully for about 6 months.  You'll get enough to make 2 medium-ish pizzas, give or take.  Note: this last time I used "Rapid Rise" yeast and I did not have to wait but about 1 hour for it to rise well. 

On to grilling!

After you divide the dough in half, brush olive oil on the first side.  Then just slap it down on your grill [oiled side down, of course] and get that other side oiled.

After you've done that, LEAVE IT ALONE!  You'll be able to tell when it gets a little charred on the bottom side and it's time to flip.  You'll also smell it.  But be careful, sometimes by the time you smell something that you think is done, it's too late.  Don't walk away.  For me, it took about 3-4 minutes.

Here's what it looks like after it's flipped.  Help. Me. Rhonda.  I could just eat that.  The things you can do with just plain old grilled bread.  But we've got toppings for these babies!

Well, not a lot of toppings were had, actually.  I had sliced tomato, chorizo [organic chicken], sauteed red onion and yellow pepper, and a little cheese. 

You can see the that one on the right got a little messed up on the edge.  No one will care about that when you serve it to them, trust me.  Once you accept that fact that cooking is in no way perfect [baking is an entirely different matter], you will feel so free in the kitchen, or on your back porch. 
In fact, that little nugget of wisdom, when applied properly, can pretty much get you through anything in life.

Time for our closeup!

This is the one that got a little messed up.  I bet you wouldn't have noticed because you got distracted by the gorgeous grill marks.  What a gracious dinner guest you are.

Next time, you're invited! 
We also ate it for supper the next night, warmed up in the oven.  It was good the second time around, so you know it's a keeper. 

EDIT: Please don't talk about the condition of my cookie sheets behind my back.

Monday, July 5, 2010


I like this girl.

Mostly because she's the only friend I have left that will probably not have children before me.  I think we're competing on who will hold out the longest.  I also like her because she brings me fresh eggs from the hens she keeps on her front porch.  Ok, maybe they're not on her porch, but I imagine them that way.  I haven't been to her farm since she got them.  She is my real-life Pioneer Woman. 

Today we drove up to Danville to meet her and her tall-drink-of-water husband, Chad.  We ate at a random place and then Justin and I got to try out The Hub Coffee House.  I'm definitely going back there. 

Today when I woke up, Bailey's left eye looked like this.  I quickly awakened Justin because I thought her eye socket was hanging out.  After an expensive trip to the vet it was discovered that her third eyelid [third??? really???] was hanging out due to swelling from a small scratch on her cornea.  Hopefully this will be correct soon and not turn into a surgery.  We just got her spade last week.  I don't think my wallet can take any more for right now. 

Right now I'm watching an old episode of Julia Child making a halo cake.  It makes me feel like superwoman because she made so many mistakes and yet look what she accomplished!  I must attribute some of my ability to her, though, for without her trailblazing this "servantless cook" would not be what I am. She was fearless and brilliant all at the same time.

I promise I have many interested blogging topics coming up, including theological thoughts, environmental ideas, and the ever-interesting subject of my thumbs.  That'll keep you coming back for more, won't it?