Archive | March, 2009

Why I Don’t Smoke {recipe, kind of: key lime pie}

26 Mar

There are a lot of reasons not to smoke, like that smokers die younger, get clogged arteries and causes heart attacks and strokes, have more wrinkles, and are prime candidates for mouth, throat, and lung cancer. I hear smokers lose their acute sense of taste. To not taste this, or this, or this?

Or this?

Oh, and it’s bad for other people. I would like to think that I am so selfless that even the last of those reasons would deter me. But I don’t think that’s right. I am pretty selfish sometimes.

I know it’s a big risk, but that’s not really what keeps me at bay. According to research, we take a lot of risks every day. Thirty-one percent of us occasionally use the top step of a step-ladder. Forty-three percent of us jumped on trampolines as kids (resulting in an average of 105,000 hospital visits, yearly). And, 39% of us eat raw cookie dough (and clearly, some us us lie about not eating it).

I drink the occasional diet soda, sometime I eat McDonald’s fries, I put candles out with my fingers, and often I lift with my back and not my knees. I have been known to haphazardly send emails after having a glass of wine.

There are other risks in my life. The health risks aren’t why I don’t smoke.

I don’t smoke because I think I would like it. I mean, I think I would love it. I think I would want to smoke all the time. I think I wouldn’t get work done because I would always be going outside to smoke. I would get sick because I stood out in the cold all winter, smoking. My friends, not to mention my husband, probably wouldn’t like me as much.

Take this week, Austin got pummeled with hail last night. Our house got some damage and my car is reminiscent of a once-pockmarked scarred teen, it’s outermost part tainted with dents and crevaces which are subtle from the distance, but definite upon inspection. I ran out in the hail with my helmet on to move my car into the garage. I looked like I do in this pic, except in my work clothes and without a bike. And our lawn looked like a driving range of hail-balls.

By 9am today we had been to Lowes, been home, figured out the car insurance and made a claim, and driven to work. Outside of the office, some committed smoker was outside, in the rain, with a cigarette. The slightly stifiling smell of smoke didn’t turn me off, but rather made me think, man, I wish I could relax like that right now.

Ok, I feel like that was a big confession. I should go now.

Oh. You wanted a recipe? For this?

This is the best key lime pie I have ever had. And I made it. I can’t give you the recipe on this blog, because there is someone who always talks of challenging me to a bake-off at the office, and we decided that for said bake-off, we will make a key lime pie. Because key lime pie is neutral and provides little enough variation that two different ones could be compared, but room for enough variation that two key lime pies can taste very different.

If you want the recipe and you don’t work at my office, leave a comment below and I will happily email it to you directly. If you do work at my office, you can just participate in the bake-off judging and see what you think whenever that happens.


Hearty, Not Heavy {recipe: black bean soup}

25 Mar

Sometimes you need something hearty, but not heavy. Something that will sustain you, but  not send you into food-coma peril. Or take away too much of your cash.

This will do the trick. Especially on a rainy, groggy day like today. If I had planned in advance, we would have made this with dried beans and fresh tomatoes!

Also, Amazon has a lot of their cooking magazines on a sale today!

Black Bean Soup

makes 8 servings

1 onion, sliced

2 T. olive oil

6 14oz. cans black beans

2 14oz cans diced tomatoes

3 cups chicken broth

3/4 cup cilantro leaves

2 t. salt

2 T. cumin

2 T. lime juice

toppings for serving (optional): sour cream, shredded cheese, lime wedges, fresh cilantro, crushed tortilla chips, hot sauce

Heat onion and oil in a large pot until inion softens.

Add four cans black beans (with juice), one can tomatoes (with juice), and three cups chicken broth, stir together and heat until just starting to boil.

Transfer to blender or food processor and add in cilantro, process until smooth.

Return to put and add remaining two cans of beans (drained), one can of tomatoes, salt, cumin and lime juice.

Serve hot with desired toppings or freeze up to three months.

To heat from frozen, defrost in refrigerator overnight, or on counter for the afternoon and re-heat in a pot on the stove.

A Case of the Mondays {recipe: olivia’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies}

19 Mar

Olivia and her husband, Todd, have us and four other couples over every Monday night. Olivia makes one fantastic dessert after another, week after week, but that’s not really why we’re there. It’s their cute kid. No, not really. We spend time talking about life and marriage and all the joys and challenges that those bring, amongst other things. It’s great.

These are Olivia’s cookies. Also great:

From Olivia’s Cookies

She would probably give the credit to someone else, but for our purposes here, they are Olivia’s cookies. Thanks Olivia. I love your cookies. I am cheating on my once-favorite cookies with yours. Can we say, “Flavor of the week?” Yes. Yes, we can.

These cookies are thin and soft and gooey. Thin and soft, you ask? I know, I know. Until this recipe I would deem those two words an oxymoron in its finest sense. I do not like a crunchy cookie.

From Olivia’s Cookies

Now, a word to the wise: When I made these, I knew what I was aiming for. I had eaten one (or four) of Olivia’s cookies weeks before and I was stoked about this recipe. I made the cookies, and when I pulled them out of the oven I was crushed. They had poofed up in all the wrong places and looked like “those” cookies. You know the ones. The cookies that are a bit airy and crunchy as a cracker. We had people over hanging out and I had to go un-hype the cookies that I had just hyped up for 10 minutes while making the dough. So we finished dinner and I went back to the kitchen to get said crappy cookies. And they had sunk, much like my heart had about 5 minutes before. But this time it was good. The cookies had deflated and redeemed themselves. They were flat and chewy and gooey all at the same time. A dream come true.

From Olivia’s Cookies

Olivia’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

makes 20


1 c. butter

1 c. white sugar

1 c. brown sugar


2 eggs

2 t. vanilla

Blend in:

2 1/2 c. oats

2 c. flour

1 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

4 oz. grated milk chocolate Hershey’s bar

Drop 1/4 cup dough on a greased cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 for 8 minutes.

Remember the note ablove about how the cookies will sink.


Changing Scenery {recipe: carrot cake cupcakes}

17 Mar
From carrot cake cupcakes

I recently changed desks at work. In three years, this is the fifth cube that I have occupied. I think I am the most-moved one on the team, and I like it. I love changing desks, even if it’s just a few yards over, or swapping with someone on the next row. Management likes to keep us all sitting near the people we are working directly with, which helps collaboration and discussion, and I like new things. Not bright-shiny new, but just new-to-me things. New cube neighbors, a new view.

My current cube is somewhat in the middle of our department, technically on a row with people who I am not on a team with.

They are nice enough to let me sit here. So I made them cupcakes.

I took photos of these cupcakes because they were soooooooo pretty (probably because they weren’t my idea, but they were Deb’s), but I have had them for weeks and forgot that I had not posted the recipe.

From carrot cake cupcakes

These are very, very good. The carrot cake is moist and the frosting is creamy and sweet. Smitten Kitchen used maple in the frosting, but I did not have maple syrup, so I used honey and all was well.

From carrot cake cupcakes

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting

yields 24 cupcakes

2 c. all purpose flour

2 t. baking soda

1 t. salt1 T.  ground cinnamon

1 t. ground nutmeg

2 t. ground ginger

2 c. sugar

1 1/4 c. canola oil

4 large eggs

3 c. grated carrots (I used a food processor to grate them)

1 c. coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.

Place liners in 24 muffin cups.

Stir sugar and oil together until incorporated.

Add in eggs one at a time and stir after each addition.

Add spices,  salt, and baking soda and stir well.

Add in flour and stir until blended.

Stir in carrots and nuts.

Drop into cupcake cups.

Bake 12 to 18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean.

Let the cupcakes cool in pans for about 10 minutes then transfer cakes to a cooling rack.

The cupcakes should cool completely before you frost them.

Honey Cream Cheese Frosting

16 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1 stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

2 1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar

1/4 c. honey

In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy (this will take about 10 minutes).

Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.

For the spikey frosting, I used a Wilton #129 tip and just kept dolliping, dolliping, dolliping!

Moving Day Breakfast {recipe: juevos rancheros kolaches}

15 Mar
From kolaches

We have had a lot of friends move lately. Moving is fun, especially when it’s not your own stuff. When it’s your move, it’s pretty stressful, not to mention the weeks of packing leading up to the move. But, when it’s someone else’s move, you show up at a packed house at 7am and go go go until it’s done. That is fun.

You meet your moving friends’ other friends who are there to help, and you get to see your moving friends at their wit’s end and see how they respond when their favorite picture frame is broken, or when their new dryer doesn’t work. You get to nag them about having ten-dozen too many hardback books, or three times the cookie sheets they really need. You get to “stumble upon” their old yearbooks and laugh at their freshman year picture and how they wrote “don’t sign my crack” in the binding of their copy. You work until you’re tired and then you sit on moved boxes in the ‘new house’ which feels quite daunting and eat fast food and wipe your greasy fingers on your pants because no one can find the napkins, or the chairs, for that matter.

You move all the stuff and as you’re realizing that it’s all just stuff…matter, with an affectionate name like “memorabelia” or “antiques”, you go back to the old house. You help clean up the spot from a spilled soda on the carpet that was fought over and then just covered by a moved couch, and you wash down the back door once-laden with prints of doggy-noses, and you paint over where all the kids’ heights were marked each birthday on the wall.  You notice that the room where you once crammed 30 friends for an evening of fellowship now looks so small and lifeless without the warmth of family and sounds of laughter.

And you realize, that it’s not the stuff, or the structure that make the memories, it’s the people and what goes on inside.

All these emotions need a little comfort, and for us, kolaches are comfort. I will always have a special place in my heart for donuts, but you really can’t beat a kolache on any morning. Sweet dough and your choice of filling will make these delightful.

So, here’s to you, friends! Hope you’re enjoying the new places!

From kolaches
Norris House Kolaches*

makes 12

*recipe note: get creative with your filling…make these italian for dinner with cheese and pepperonis, and then dip them in marinara, or form our dough around a sausage!

1 1/2 T. yeast

2 t. salt

2 1/2 T. gluten

1/2 c. non-fat dry milk powder

4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3 T. sugar

6 T. butter, cut into 8 pieces

1 egg

1 1/4 c. milk

Put all ingredients in a bowl or stand mixer and  knead 2 minutes by hand, or with mixer, use dough hook on “4” setting to knead dough for 2 minutes.

Examine dough, if it sticks to fingers or sides of bowl, add 1/4 cup flour at a time and knead unto it is no longer sticking to hands or bowl. If the dough is too crumbly, add 2 T. milk at a time until not crumbly.

Knead or mix 10 more minutes. Leave dough in bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap for about 6 hours (give or take two hours there, depending on your needs, and you will be fine!). Dough will double or triple in size.

Preheat oven to 350.

Punch the dough down to deflate and divide into 12 balls. flatten balls and fill with desired filling (see below). Pinch dough to form a wrapper around filling, and place on a greased baking sheet, 3 inches apart (you will need two baking sheets) pinched side down.

Bake 18-30 minutes, until kolaches have puffed up and are starting to trun golden brown.

Remove and enjoy hot, or freeze for later use. To eay from frozen, thaw on counter overnight and then heat in oven at 350 for 8 minutes.

Juevos Rancheros con Queso Filling

for 12 kolaches

12 eggs

1 cup salsa

1 cup shredded cheese

1 1/2 t. salt

1 t. pepper

Crack eggs and put in nonstick pan on stove. Scramble with salsa, cheese, salt and pepper.

From kolaches

Out of a Rut {recipe: chocolate chip cookie dough bon bons}

5 Mar

I have tried to make cake truffles atleast four times. I have failed every time. I don’t know what the deal is, but when I try to roll the cake into balls and it sticks to my hands, and I end up with these dough-ball messes. Then, I try to dunk my messy, sticky globs unto soft, melted, unadultered chocolate coating. I end up with a cake glob mashed with asymmetrical, hardening chocolate. They taste great but look atrocious, so I eat them myself and make something safe to bring.

Well I may suck at the cake truffles, but I totally owned these (the original recipe calls them chocolate chip cookie dough truffles).

From cookie dough truffles

Anyhow, I found some easy truffles. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bon Bons. These are more like cookie dough, and less like truffles. But really, is that a problem for you? It is not a problem for me. 

I know what you are thinking. Cookie dough has raw eggs in it. 

Not this cookie dough. This has some crazy combo that includes sweetened condensed milk. And it is so, so good. And when I think about Bon Bons, I have visions of sitting in on the couch with a good blanket and some junky TV. Thinking of that makes me happy right now.

From cookie dough truffles

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bon Bons

adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

¾ cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp salt

2 cups flour

1 can  sweetened condensed milk

1 cup chocolate chips

4 oz. meltable chocolate bark


Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add salt and vanilla.

With speed on low, slowly add flour, alternating with condensed milk, beating well after each addition.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Refrigerate dough 45 minute-1 hour so that it is not too sticky.

Shape balls into 1-inch balls and place into an air tight container. Store in freezer for at least 3 hours.

From cookie dough truffles

Melt choolate and dip balls in chocolate. Let chocolate harden on wzxed paper and then freeze balls up to 3 weeks.

Original Post:

This Will Make it Alright {Recipe: Salted Butter Caramel}

4 Mar

Tough economy? Need dessert? Specifically, need dessert that you can pull out of the fridge and eat with a spoon, straight out of the jar?

From Salter Butter Caramel

I have something for you. I love it so much that I thought I posted it already. I thought you were already enjoying it. But you weren’t. And I am sorry.

This carmel is very easy, and so pure and tasty. Do you have those Kraft carmels in your baking pantry? Go get them, and see that they have many, many ingredients that you can’t pronounce. Scroll down to my (really, it’s Deb’s) recipe. It has three ingredients. Simply delicious, like this.

It only takes about 10 minutes and one pot.

Are you ready?

Oh, you are not convinced yet? You wonder what you will do with this carmel? Ok. I can understand that. Here is what you can do with the carmel:

  • Spread on pretzles
  • Drizzle over icecream
  • Spoon into coffee
  • Add to plain yogurt
  • Use with apples
  • Put it on this
  • Or this
  • Or this. Yes, do that. I did.

I am sure you can think of more uses. Now I am sure you are ready to make the caramel.


From Salter Butter Caramel

Salted Butter Caramel

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

makes about 1 cup

1 cup sugar

6 tablespoons salted butter, cut into 12 pieces

1/2 cup plus two tablespoons heavy cream

Melt the sugar over medium to moderately high heat, whishing constantly, in a 2, 3, or 4 quart pot (you’ll need the extra space later. The sugar will not do anything for a while, then it will start to liquefy and brown quickly. Cook the liquefied sugar to a carmel color. The darker color you bring it to, the more bitter the caramel will taste. Try for a dark copper color.

Add the butter and stir it in, pour in the heavy cream (the caramel will bubble up!), and then turn off the stove.  Whisk until your caramel is smooth.

You use it right away or pour it into a jar and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks.It won’t last that long, you will find all sorts of tings to ear it on. Namely a spoon. When you use it out of the fridge, you may want to microwave your jar 30-60 seconds.

From Salter Butter Caramel