Archive for February, 2011

Make your own Girl Scout cookies!

Who doesn’t love Girl Scout cookies? I for one, love them and look forward to them every year. I know to get Peanut Butter Patties for my son, a couple boxes for my husband and then I always choose the Caramel deLites. By no means are they light, but definitely a splurge calorie-wise. A splurge I never regret.

Usually I am asked by a couple of little girls to buy a box or two, but this year that didn’t happen. So while I wait for the booths to pop up at the grocery stores, I chose to make my own.

Earlier this week I shared my version of these delectable caramel-topped cookies with Columbia Daily Tribune readers via the Community Kitchen blog. I couldn’t resist sharing it with you as well. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do and don’t eat all of them in one sitting. Oh well, if you do, I won’t tell anybody. Just be sure to have a tall glass of milk to wash them down. Here’s the recipe link to my Community Kitchen post.


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Stretch your dollar with flavorful rice and beans

Every Sunday I cook up a few dishes for lunch throughout the week. It takes a few hours and a little planning, but saves my sanity and figure by providing nutritious dishes during my busy workday. This week I was inspired by dry beans in my pantry. A quick peek in the vegetable drawer of the fridge and there you go, this dish was born.

Simple, yet delicious.

To me, simplicity is the best part of comfort food. It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy to be flavorful. This recipe serves four and can be made for less than $10. If this were mid-summer, it would be much cheaper given that I have raised garden beds in my back yard. Tomatoes, peppers and veggies are plentiful during the summer and always taste better than anything in the grocery store. If you don’t grow a garden, you can always pick up fresh veggies from roadside stands or farmers’ markets. Odds are the produce will have just come from the fields just hours before you paid for it.

In addition to veggies, beans are inexpensive, go a long way and can be added to lots of dishes–soups, quesadillas, salads, etc. With the leftover beans from this Sunday, I added them to a Southwest salad of greens, onions, grilled chicken and corn with crispy tortilla strips. I urge you to try this recipe and be creative with the extra beans in some new dishes of your own! I’d love to hear what you whip up.

Melissa’s Rice and Beans

  • 2 cups dry black beans
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 package salt pork (near the pork in the meat aisle)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 5 cups chicken stock

Add the beans, water, salt pork and seasonings to a stock pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour until beans are soft. In the meantime, add the rice and chicken stock to another pot and simmer for 45 minutes or so until all the stock is absorbed. In a serving dish, layer the rice, beans and vegetables.

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Confetti Chicken, that’s what’s for dinner

Earlier this week it hit 70+ degrees here in Missouri, which needless to say was welcome and wonderful. It made me long for summer vegetables and grilled meat. I thought of making burgers for dinner, but decided against them. Ribs? Nah, too much work. Fish? I wasn’t in the mood for it. Another perk of being the cook is if you aren’t in the mood, then you don’t have to make it. So chicken it was. Confetti chicken to be exact.

Confetti chicken is easy to make and not very expensive, a great combination in my house. Two chicken breasts can feed the three of us, add in a few baked potatoes and voila, we have a meal. I find that my son will eat chicken most any way I fix it, so long as it’s not too spicy. This recipe has a nice amount of heat which is tempered by the cheese and veggies on top. I hope you’ll give this one a try, I’ll bet you’ll add it to your rotation as well.

Confetti Chicken

  • 2 chicken breasts, boneless skinless
  • 1 tablespoon jerk seasoning
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 1/2 cup black beans
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/4 salsa
  • 1 cup colby-jack cheese, shredded
  • Tortilla strips

Rinse and pat dry chicken breasts. Add the jerk seasoning on both sides of the breasts. Add them to a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, add the corn, beans, red onion and salsa to a bowl.

Once cooked through, divide the cheese in half and put it over each piece of chicken. Place the chicken back in the oven for 3-5 minutes until it melts. Bring it out of the oven and place each piece on a dinner plate. Divide the corn and bean mixture, adding it to the chicken.  Garnish with tortilla strips.

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Chocolate Pound Cake, Ganache, Cream, Strawberries…Oh My!

I’ve never been a cake lover. I enjoy them, but seem to prefer pies, ice cream, creme brulee, tarts, well … you get the picture. Just about any other sweet confection over plain, boring cake. However, my latest baking venture has completely changed my mind about this dessert. It’s not a plain, boring cake like those box mixes in the baking aisle at the grocery store. This is a wonderfully moist, decadent, chocolately perfection on a plate. As if it wasn’t good enough, I stepped it up by adding a rich ganache, fluffly whipped cream and chocolate-dipped strawberries. D-i-v-i-n-e.

So, how did I get from box mix to homemade goodness? Three, well four words: My son and Southern Living. This past weekend my husband, son and I decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day at home. We opted to grill steaks and seafood over being stressed by overpriced and busy restaurants. What celebration wouldn’t be complete without a dessert? I had a strawberry shortcake in mind. My son had a different idea. He went to the grocery with me and every few minutes he’d say, “I want chocolate cake.” I’d grumble and complain about how much I really didn’t want cake. He won. How can I turn down the most adorable little boy with one simple wish–chocolate cake? BUT I refused to buy a mix. Just couldn’t do it. So I pulled out my trusty Southern Living cookbook and there it was, a great recipe for chocolate pound cake. This isn’t just perfect for Valentine’s Day, it’s great year ’round. Go ahead, give it a try. Who knows, you may just discover you, too, now love cake.

Recipe for cake and ganache from The All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook

Chocolate Velvet Pound Cake

  • 1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 16 oz. light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • Chocolate Ganache (see recipe below)

Melt semisweet chocolate morsels in a microwave-safe bowl at HIGH for 30-second intervals until melted (about 1 1/2 minutes total time). Stir until smooth.

Beat butter and brown sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer, beating about 5 minutes or until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Add melted chocolate, beating just until blended.

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add to chocolate mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Gradually add 1 cup hot water in a slow, steady stream, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in vanilla.

Pour batter into a greaased and floured 1-inch tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-65 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on rack. Sift powdered sugar over top of cake. Serve with Chocolate Ganache and chocolate- dipped strawberries.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 12 oz semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Microwave morsels and cream in a glass bowl on medium for 1-2 minutes.Whisk from center of bowl until the mixture comes together thick, smoothe. Whisk in butter and let stand 30 minutes. Yields 1-1/2 cups. Drizzle ganache over cake.

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Caramel Cake, courtesy of The Help

A couple of months ago, the bookclub to which I belong read The Help. It is an excellent book by Kathryn Stockett set in the 1960s about Mississippi maids. It’s told from their perspective and has some wonderful characters which are easily loved, hated and pitied. The month we read this book, it was my turn to host. Now when people are invited into my home, my first goal is to ensure they are comfortable. The second is to make sure they are fed and the third, well, is that they leave happy and eager to come to back.

With those goals in mind, I chose foods that were mentioned in the book. I also asked the ladies coming to the meeting to bring Southern-inspired dishes. It was a great spread of bourbon brownies, pimento cheese on celery sticks, caramel cake and more. To wash it all down, we enjoyed some sweet tea–not flavored with Splenda or any other alternative, as any Southern girl will vouch, real sweet tea is only made with plenty of sugar.

My friend Mel happened to miss this meeting and therefore, missed out on the goods. Sorry for her! She asked me to post the recipe for the caramel cake, which I am more than happy to do. So Theresa and Mel, here’s to you girls! Enjoy!

Caramel Cake

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 oz. sour cream, full fat
  •  2 -2/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, and then add sour cream. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Butter and flour three cake pans. Add batter evenly to the three pans and bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before icing. See recipe below.

Caramel Icing

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar

Melt butter and brown sugar in a saucepan. Add evaporated milk. Cook over medium for two minutes. Add vanilla and remove from heat. Add powdered sugar and mix until smooth.

Melissa’s Note:

I usually dip my knife in water each time I spread this icing as it can be sticky and this makes it easier. 

I used two deep, 8-inch cake pans for this recipe. When they came out of the oven, I let them cool and froze one of the cakes. I took the other cake from its pan and sliced it in two, spreading iciing between the layers. It’s nice to have the frozen cake ready when I have unexpected guests or just want something sweet on a day when I don’t feel like baking!

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