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Comfort Food: Southern Pimento Cheese
Delia’s “Famous” Cinnamon Nut Bread
Click here for the most delicious bread recipe EVER!
Homemade Beef Jerky
Recipe Lessons: Occasionally, Frequently, Constantly
I’m here to demystify a few common recipe terms so you can shake the fear of cooking and get in the kitchen more!
Today’s Lesson: Stirring
Recipes often use the terms “occasionally”, “frequently” and “constantly” in reference to stirring something on the stove. This is completely subjective and could be a cause for fear of cooking (Mageirocophobia). I’m here to make it a little more objective for you.
Occasionally: Let’s say you’ve got a stew on the stove over low heat. You chop an onion for your next dish; you stir your stew. You wash your dishes; you stir your stew. You change into your party dress; you stir your stew. You get the point. If your stew is going to cook for several hours or even all day, “occasionally” could get stretched out to every 20 minutes to an hour.
Frequently: Pretend that you are sauteing some veggies over medium to medium high heat. You step away to read your recipe; you stir your veggies. You wash one or two dishes; you stir your veggies. You answer the door; you stir your veggies. You aren’t standing over the pan and stressing over stirring, but you aren’t watching a show either!
Constantly: This term is used most often when you are thickening something or stirring something that contains a lot of milk or cream. You have to stir things you are thickening constantly so they don’t turn into gloopy goo. It is the best way to monitor the cooking process so you can turn off the heat the second that it is thick enough based on the recipe. You have to stir milk based things constantly because they burn easily on the bottom of your pan if they’re not swirling around.
The Great Pie Crust Debate
I am a purest when it comes to most things in the kitchen, but pie crust isn’t one of them. As a proper Southern gal, I will fear for my life after posting this. Pie crust really isn’t difficult to make from scratch and it definitely gets a bad rep, but the Pillsbury rolled crusts are great, tender, flaky, and so easy to use, you can focus more on your filling and making the pie look like a photo in a food magazine. I use cookie cutters to form a beautiful lattice-like crust, cover a whole pie with crust “leaves”, or even form crust roses and flowers to bake separately for the top of a cold pie. The possibilities seem more endless when everything is done for you and pie making becomes so easy you’ll want to make one every week!
I’m ashamed to write this as a foodie, and occasionally I do make my own crust, but try it out next time you make a pie or quiche and give it a fighting chance. No one I have served pie to yet in 10 years has ever even noticed or asked…
I’m always thinking of new cake, cupcake and candy creations. I draw them and write down ideas but don’t often get the chance to try them out. But for our Halloween Pre-Party (after much experimenting and perfecting), I think I created the perfect S’more cupcake! Here is the recipe!
Makes about 36 cupcakes
1. Make the Chocolate Ganache
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 pound good bittersweet chocolate
- 1 pound good semisweet chocolate
Chop the chocolate into small chunks if you aren’t using bits. Place them in a mixing bowl. Heat the cream in small saucepan just until it boils. Remove from heat and let sit 30 seconds. Pour cream over chocolate through a sieve and slowly stir until all the chocolate melts. Stir in vanilla. Set aside and let set at room temperature until you are ready to use it.
2. Make the Graham Cracker Cake bottoms
- 48 graham crackers, crunched into about 6 cups of fine graham crumbs
- 3 sticks of butter, melted
- 6 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups honey
- 4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups milk
Preheat oven to 350. Put baking cups into several muffin tins or do 12 at a time (be sure to cool the pan down in between batches if you only have one). Whisk eggs and honey in a bowl with the melted butter. In another bowl, mix crumbs, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour half the crumb mixture into the wet stuff and stir well. Add the milk to that and stir again. Add the rest of the crumbs and mix well. Fill baking cups only about 1/2 way full. You don’t want the cake to puff up over the cups. The taste proportion is better when the cake is little smaller on this cupcake. Bake for about 14-15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely.
3. Make the Marshmallow Frosting
- 6 tablespoons water
- 1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
- 3/4 cup and one tablespoon sugar
- 4 large egg whites
- pinch of salt
- pinch of cream of tartar
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
In a small saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, bring water, corn syrup and 3/4 cup sugar to 242 degrees. Yes, that specific! While the sugar cooks, beat the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar until creamy and foamy in an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. While still beating, sprinkle in the tablespoon of sugar and keep going until the whites hold very soft peaks, about 1-2 minutes. When the hot syrup is ready, turn the mixer on low speed and slowly drizzle it into the egg whites. Turn the mixer to high and beat for 7 minutes or until fluffy, thick, and shiny. Turn mixer to low and whisk in the vanilla. Let cool about 5 minutes before filling your pastry bag.
4. ASSEMBLE and eat.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a large round tip with thickened ganache and pipe a 1/4 inch layer of the chocolate on top of the cupcakes. If your ganache isn’t thick like icing yet, pup it in the fridge for a few minutes. Pop the cupcakes into the fridge after piping just until you clean and fill your piping bag with the marshmallow fluff. Pipe a big squishy pillow of marshmallow on top of the chocolate. Using a torch, quickly burn the marshmallow to get that campfire flavor. Be careful, your baking cups could catch fire when you do this, so be watchful and blow them out the moment that happens! Enjoy!
The Easiest Cookies EVER.
Sometimes it’s nice to have a treat out for random guests that you baked yourself. I know that sounds old fashioned, but it fills your place with a comforting scent and, by God, it just tastes better that way. Today, I was expecting someone to come by, and I discovered the coconut macaroon recipe on the side of the bag of sweetened coconut I had in the pantry. I thought I’d try it and it is simply delicious so I had to share it with you!
Preheat your oven to 325.
In a bowl, mix a bag of sweetened coconut with 2/3 cup of sugar, 6 tablespoons of all purpose flour, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Then, preferably using your hands, mix in 4 egg whites and 1 tsp. almond extract. I didn’t use a spoon because it was easier to get an even consistency with my hands. Sort of like when you make meatloaf!
Grease and flour a baking sheet. (If you don’t know how to do this, just rub a cookie sheet with butter or shortening or spray with cooking spray. Then lightly flour it and tap it over your sink until you have a light film of flour over the whole pan.)
Using a spoon or your hands, form ping pong sized balls of dough on the sheet about 1 inch apart. These cookies don’t spread out much, so don’t be too scared that they will touch. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the tips of the coconut are golden brown. Immediately remove them from the sheet with a metal spatula or cake knife and cool on a wire rack.
Really Good Potato Salad
3 lbs. White potatoes (russets are fine), peeled and cubed into 3/4 inch cubes
4 large eggs
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
Dried Dill Weed
Put potatoes in a large pot, and gently nestle the 4 eggs on top. Pour in cold water until everything is covered. Salt the water generously (about 1 tablespoon or so). Put on high heat, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium. Cook 13 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender, but not mushy. Remove from heat, fish out the eggs with a slotted spoon and put them in a bowl filled with very cold water. Strain potatoes in a colander and put them into a large bowl. Peel and chop the eggs and add them to the potatoes. Add relish, 1/4 cup of mustard, 1/2 cup of mayo, and 1 tsp. of dill weed. Mix. Now, at this point, you might want to add more mustard and mayo or salt and pepper. The salad should be a buttery yellow color and creamy, not dry. Taste it and add more of anything you want! Have a serving warm before you chill the rest. It is really yummy when it’s fresh!
I’m Really in the Mood for…
I decided to improvise tonight because sometimes you just need a warm chewy cookie on a Sunday evening. I always have the basics of baking around the house, but not the particulars like chocolate bits or nuts so I started to think, “what would happen if you just threw in anything yummy (within reason) from your pantry?” My Aunt Betsy visited us this weekend and left a lovely gift of Mon Cheri liquor filled chocolate covered cherries among many other treats from Switzerland…would these work?
The beauty of basic baking is that it is not expensive so you can afford to screw it up. Why not take this basic cookie recipe and add chopped up Ferrero Rochers from the holidays, or any old candy bar, or the end of that bag of trail mix, or some earl gray tea leaves perhaps? The possiblities are endless. I can’t promise any of those would be very good, but you could be the inventor of the next iconic cookie, so why not experiment?
Basic Dough (my standby for the basic chocolate chip cookie)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 sticks butter, softened
1 large egg
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (if you are using salted butter, you might want to back off of this a bit)
1 teaspoon extract (vanilla or almond or…whatever goes with your flavors the best…if you don’t know, go with vanilla or go without)
Additions- 2-4 cups of candy or nuts, but if you only have 1 candy bar, don’t make it stop you from having your cookie! Just do it. I only had 1 cup of chopped Mon Cheris, but the subtle flavor is really nice.
Heat oven to 375. In your mixer or bowl, mix sugars, butter, egg and extract until completely combined. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in your additions. Form ping pong sized balls with your hands and place on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. If you only have one cookie sheet, do one batch at a time, cooling the pan between them. Bake 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool slightly, remove from cookie sheet and cool on a wire rack.
With this type of cookie, a lot of people leave them in the oven too long and lose the perfect lightly golden bottom with a yummy chewiness. Do not worry if they look really soft coming out of the oven, they are supposed to be soft in the center, and remember that light golden brown is not fully tan! It is just that, golden on the edges and bottom, but not lightly brown all the way around. For most ovens, the perfect time is 9 minutes, but if you know your oven burns a lot of your food or the opposite, then adjust accordingly.
Remove cookies from the pan after about 2 minutes of cooling. This way, they don’t stick, but they set up just enough that they don’t fall apart. And get yourself a cake icing knife, they are the BEST for getting cookies from the pan to the wire rack.