Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blondies Recipe

As the last day of the month, it is operation eat-what's-in-the pantry at my house.  Instead of blowing my monthly grocery budget (thank you Dave Ramsey), I am using what I already have on hand to feed my family.  This involves poking and peering in the back of my cupboards and creating dishes that utilize ingredients that I find.  Last night I discovered a bag of Nestle's Butterscotch Morsels lurking on the top shelf of my baking cabinet.  This motivated me to whip up a batch of Blondies for after school snack.

I found a recipe for Blondies that included oatmeal, but much to my dismay my 42 ounce canister of Quaker Oats which my husband purchased as part of his Hurricane Ike preparedness plan only had a scant half cup remaining.  (Who leaves a scant half cup of oats in a humongous canister that takes up more than it's designated space in the pantry?  And just what is a family of six who has no electricity suppose to do with oats anyway?)  Determined to stick to the infamous budget I supplemented my scant cup of oats with steel cut oats which I had purchased during my annual stock up at Trader Joe's trip in July.   Dr. Oz would be so proud.  He would also approve of the fact that I substituted part of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour.

The Blondies turned out moist and flavorful.  None of my kids' noticed the whole wheat flour or the necessary oat combination.  In fact, my son's friend commented that his mom made blonde brownies before, but that these were way better.  As he was walking out the door and chewing he said that she was probably rushing when she made hers.  Makes me wonder what my kids say about me when they are gorging themselves at other people's homes.

This recipe is great for operation-eat-what's-in-the-pantry, but would also work well for bake sales and family gatherings.  It is easy to make and delicious to share!

Blondies Recipe

2 1/2 cups flour (can use part whole wheat flour)
1 cup oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
1 3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups butterscotch chips (could also use chocolate chips, nuts, coconut or any combination of these)

  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.  
  2. Grease a 11 x 8 1/2 inch pan for thick blondies or a 9 x 13 pan for thinner blondies
  3. Whisk together flour, oats, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Beat the softened butter with an electric mixer.  Add the brown sugar and beat until fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Beat in eggs one a a time.  Add vanilla.
  5. Gently stir flour mixture into butter mixture.
  6. Add butterscotch chips.  Mix until combined
  7. Spread into prepared pan.
  8. Bake for 30-40 minutes depending on your pan size
Recipe inspired by pages 326-327 of  The Carefree Cook by Rick Rodgers

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pumpkin Muffins Recipe

I am a seasonal cook. Not because it's environmentally friendly, or more healthy, or all the rage right now, but because that's how my mother and grandmother did it.  My mother and grandmother prepare asparagus in Spring, peach cobbler in Summer, apple pie in Fall, and chicken noodle soup in Winter. In fact, I could never make strawberry shortcake in January or serve corn on the cob in April, it just seems wrong.

There is, however, an exception to my seasonal cooking rule. . . pumpkin muffins. You're not going to see me whip up a pumpkin pie or a pumpkin roll in February or May, but pumpkin muffins are a year round staple in our house. I always seem to have a can of Libby's 100% pure pumpkin lingering in the back of my pantry. This along with a few other basic ingredients are all I need to make pumpkin muffins which are perfect for after school snacks, lunch boxes, and breakfast. This recipe is healthy, easy, and makes plenty.  Today I got two dozen regular sized muffins and eighteen mini-muffins out of one batch.

Although you might find a batch of pumpkin muffins on my counter anytime of the year, they taste especially yummy in the Fall.  I've prepared a batch today, despite the 90 degree temperatures down here in Texas, to celebrate the first day of Fall.   I am dreaming of cooler temperatures and when I curl up with a cup of tea and a pumpkin muffin I can almost feel Fall in the air, well, almost.

Pumpkin Muffins

*makes 24 regular sized muffins or tons of mini muffins

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups canned 100 % pumpkin (15 ounce can)
1/2 cup water
3 cups flour (all-purpose or King Arthur's Unbleached White Whole Wheat Flour or a combination)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Mix sugar, oil, eggs, pumpkin and water until well combined
  • Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
  • Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and gently stir until well combined.
  • Put batter into greased muffin tins (an ice cream scoop is perfect for this task) or a muffin tin filled with cupcake liners.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Serve plain or with butter or cream cheese.  
Linked to:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Vote for Royers Round Top Cafe

Back in June, my husband and I visited Royers Round Top Cafe in Round Top, Texas.  Prior to stepping foot onto the front porch of this visually appealing eatery, I had never been to Royers, I knew nary a thing about Bud the Pie Man, and  I had no idea that I was about to have one of the best meals of my life.  After experiencing this energizing establishment, I realized that Royers Cafe  is something special!  As I stated before, the food is incredible, the interior is fantastic, and the people ooze love and hospitality.

Although it was clear that my husband and I were thrilled with Royers, I had no idea that lots of people agree.  Bud the Pie Man has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning (my personal favorite news program), and now is in the finals for best chef  by ABC Nightline's People's Platelist .  Bud has beat out thousands of entries and will be featured on national television when he gets the most votes.  I believe Bud will be the winner because he can cook, pies and more, and he is passionate and genuine about the food he serves and the people to which he serves it.

If you agree that Bud should win ABC Nightline People's Platelist contest, then click on over and vote for him! Also, check out his website and order a pie or two.  If you are lucky enough to live in Texas, visit Royer's and tell them Heidi sent you!  Don't forget, "Eat Mo Pie!"

The views expressed here were in no way influenced by the fact that Bud the Pie Man, after a five minute conversation, gave Heidi and her family a free pie.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Texas Sheet Cake Recipe

A few Sundays ago the women at my church provided lunch.  They created a crowd pleasing menu that consisted of Strawberry Spinach Salad, King Ranch Casserole, and Texas Sheet Cake.  Anytime someone else cooks my family and I lunch on a Sunday afternoon I'm happy.  This Texas worthy menu, however, made me ecstatic.  Adding to the anticipation was the fact that the entire day before the luncheon the women who were doing the cooking were updating their Facebook statuses about dicing onions, roasting chickens, and baking chocolate cakes.  I knew this was going to be delicious!

I provided a Texas Sheet Cake for the occasion and was pleased to dig out a recipe that my mother had written back in the 1980's.  Although I didn't step foot into Texas until a few years ago, I did know about Texas Sheet Cake.  I vaguely remember first having this dessert at a picnic and then my mom copying the recipe before we left the gathering.  It seems my mom had trouble tracking down a sheet cake pan which is 16 by 12 inches instead of the standard 9 by 13 inches that she used most of the time, but when she did my dad and I were glad.  This recipe brought the name of Texas to our Maryland home.

The cake is made from scratch with basic pantry ingredients such as cocoa, flour and baking soda.  The addition of sour cream gives this confection a nice moistness and the nuts add a subtle crunch.  My favorite part of the Texas Sheet Cake is the cooked chocolate icing.  Because this homemade frosting is added to the cake while it is still slightly warm, it fuses with the layer of cake and creates a nice dense topping.

At our church luncheon, I enjoyed the Spinach Strawberry Salad and the King Ranch Casserole.   I'm working on tracking down those recipes and hope to share them in the future.  I also had fun comparing the Texas Sheet Cakes that many women had contributed.  My husband and kids tried to pick out mine from the sea of dessert plates.  Although my recipe originated in Maryland I think it is Texas worthy and would be delicious served in any state.

Texas Sheet Cake Recipe

1 cup butter
1 cup water
5 Tablespoons cocoa
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 cup chopped nuts (I prefer pecans.)

  1. Spray a sheet cake pan (16 x 12 inches) with baker's spray or butter and flour.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Whisk together sugar, flour, salt, and baking soda.
  4. Bring butter, water, and cocoa to a boil.  Turn off heat. 
  5. Add wet mixture (butter, water, and cocoa) to dry ingredients (sugar, flour, salt, and baking soda).  Gently mix.
  6. Blend in eggs (one at a time) and sour cream.  Mix just until combined.
  7. Fold in nuts.
  8. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the center with only a few crumbs.
  10. Meanwhile, cook frosting.
  11. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan.  Frost the slightly warm cake.
  12. Cut into squares and serve directly from the sheet pan.

Texas Sheet Cake Frosting Recipe

1/2 cup butter
5 Tablespoons cocoa
1 pound confectioner's sugar (a.k.a. 10x sugar)
6 Tablespoons milk
1 cup chopped nuts (I use pecans.)
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Bring butter, cocoa, and milk to a light boil.
  2. Remove from heat and slowly mix in confectioner's sugar and vanilla.  Beat well.
  3. Fold in nuts.
  4. Spread over slightly warm cake.

    Saturday, September 4, 2010

    Tomato-Avocado Salsamole Recipe

    I am grateful to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen!  After reading their book YOU On a Diet and following their eating plan for a month, there is now 11 pounds less of me.  For all of my adult years, I have avoided the dreaded d-word by accepting my body as it is and embracing my theory of being active, cooking with fresh ingredients, and enjoying all things in moderation.  Although I still wholeheartedly believe in those ideas and have in the last month sampled a bit of this and even a slice of that, I turned to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen to gain more knowledge about healthy food choices and acquire structure in my meal planning.

    For the first two weeks, I followed the YOU diet as closely as possible.  I made a grocery list, cleared out a cupboard for my foods, and embraced new recipes such as Mediterranean Chicken with Tomatoes, Olives, and Herbed White Beans (yum!), Apricot Chicken and Green Beans with Almond Slivers (double yum!), and Royal Pasta Primavera Provencale (wow!).  The flavors are intense and although I do actually feel hungry between meals  or snacks (a new sensation for me), I am always satisfied after eating .

    My favorite parts of the the YOU meal plan are the snacks.  I have one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening.  When a bad case of the hungries strike, I know I have a delicious snack  to look forward to in just about an hour.  During the week I choose easy snacks such as Greek yogurt, mixed nuts with dried fruit, or popcorn.   On the weekends, however, I often make a batch of Tomato-Avocado Salsamole as a treat.

    The Tomato-Avocado Salsamole requires a little bit of mincing and chopping, but it is so worth it.  I feel like a queen when I sit down with my bamboo bowl of healthy guacamole and lightly toasted whole wheat pita triangles.  Because I'm not stuffing myself with processed snacks, everything tastes better.  I thoroughly enjoy the creaminess of the avocado spiked with the kick of the jalapeño and cider vinegar.  The contrast with the warmed pitas is every bit as satisfying to me as a bag of BBQ Fritos and a tub of French onion dip.

    Even if you're not on a d-word or you've never read Dr. Oz's and Dr. Roizen's book, Tomato-Avocado Salsamole is a wonderful after school snack, evening treat, or  party food.  It is creamy, flavorful, and oh, so satisfying.

    Tomato-Avocado Salsamole
    serves 2
    recipe from YOU On A Diet by Dr. Roizen and Dr. Oz

    1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
    1 teaspoon minced Jalapeño, or more to taste
    1 Tablespoon lime juice
    1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
    1 teaspoon minced garlic
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 ripe Haas avocado, peeled, pitted, and coarsely mashed (use the back of a fork or a pastry blender)
    1 medium tomato, chopped
    1/4 cup chopped cilantro

    1. Combine onion, lime juice, vinegar, garlic, and salt in bowl. 
    2. Add avocado, tomato, and cilantro; stir well.
    3. Serve immediately or, to store, reserve avocado pit, add to mixture to prevent browning, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
    4. Serve with lightly toasted whole wheat pita cut into triangles.