Saturday, February 25, 2017

chocolate chip pie




Life it just good with friends and food.  Life is even better when friends bring you food.  But it honestly is the best of the best when those friends who bring you food are your neighbors.

Some of our dear neighbors came for dinner during the Christmas break.  We really enjoyed our meal, but my absolute favorite part of the evening was sharing this pie, laughing, and talking recipes over the next couple of hours.  In fact, I followed Lynda right over to her house, after eating at ours, and she pulled out some of her favorite cookbooks and showed me a few of her tried and true recipes.  It was such a treat and a moment I had always imagined having with neighbors.  

Linda is a wonderful cook.  We've both had fun carrying sweets and various dishes back and forth to each other.  I snapped a picture of this piece of the pie the day after our meal and asked her if I could share it on the blog.  She gladly gave me the recipe.  It was so very good with vanilla bean ice cream and coffee, I just had to ask to share it with you.  

For those who aren't big coconut fans, this isn't strong.  I LOVE coconut, but it isn't the stand-out ingredient, so don't worry.  I do think my favorite part of this dessert is the chewier texture.  I've had chocolate chip pie before, but it reminded me more of a slice of chocolate chip cookie dough. Although that's not a bad thing, this pie is even better and different.

I hope you'll make room for this dish sooner than later.  Whip it up and share it with a neighbor you love.  I'm sure glad ours did!

Chocolate Chip Pie

makes one 9-inch pie
  • one unbaked pie shell
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 stick melted butter
  • 1 c chocolate chips preferred
  • 1 c broken pecans
  • 1/2 c flaked coconut
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. 

2. Blend sugar, flour, eggs, butter and vanilla well.

3. Stir in chocolate chips, pecans and coconut.

3. Pour into unbaked shell and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until firm.

4. Serve warm with ice cream or cooled with whipped cream.

Recipe by my neighbor, Lynda.







Monday, February 6, 2017

valentine cookies ~ chocolate cut-outs




Valentine's Day in elementary school was always one of my favorite holidays.  I would get so excited about filling out cards for all of my classmates and then spending the following day decorating the brown paper bag with cut-out pink and red hearts to glue on the outside.  We'd slide the finished bags to the edge of our desks and eagerly wait and see what had been collected in our own while we filled others' with their valentines.  And wasn't it fun to give your teacher the bigger "teacher" card that came in the pack, making extra-sure your penmanship was just right?  So many memories... doilies, cookies, chocolates... Sweet and simple times.  I miss them.

I do have to say that I'm bringing you a sweet and simple treat you may want to try for the special day next week.  I love cut-out sugar cookies.  They're fun and versatile.  For quite a while, I've wanted to find a chocolate version.  The Christmas before last, I actually began thinking about how fun it would be to find one and sandwich peppermint ice cream in between.  It only took me about 13 months, but I have found a very dependable chocolate sugar cookie recipe that is just enough sweet so as not to overly sweeten the dessert once paired with a filling.  In this picture, I used my favorite strawberry icing.  They would be so good with a buttercream or peanut butter frosting.  Strawberry or cherry ice cream would ROCK!  It would also be so pretty to dip half of the heart in a chocolate ganache and then again in pink or red sprinkles.  There are endless possibilities, so bake and decorate to your "heart's" content!

one year ago: egg-in-the-hole sandwich

Chocolate Cut-Outs

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
1. Combine egg, butter and sugar; blend until creamy. 

2. Add remaining ingredients and form dough into two flattened rounds; chill.

3. Roll out on a floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness.

4. Cut with cookie cutters as desired; place on ungreased baking sheets.

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Let cool.



Friday, January 13, 2017

winter salad with citrus poppyseed vinaigrette




Never in my life can I remember January 12th equaling 70 degrees.  Not in any way, shape or form.

But January 2017 in Nashville has beat all odds.  Ugh.

I honestly cannot even believe this weather.  While many might be thrilled, I am not at all happy with having to remove my light sweater while walking Hoosier at 9:00 AT NIGHT!

Double, "Ugh!"

This snow-loving girl is going to be really disappointed if the semi-snow we got last weekend is all that's coming.  Surely not?!?  But with 60-70 degree days in the ten-day forecast, I can't say I'm too terribly hopeful.

Dearest Winter... Please come back.

I will act like it's the season it's supposed to be and share my newest, and John's favorite, salad.  I had put together a lunch for my dearest friends and coworkers as my Christmas gift to them a few weeks back, and I was trying to think of something to freshen up the menu.  It included this beef stew, Ma's cornbread, and a spice cake.  I knew I wanted color and I knew I wanted citrus.  So, I started thinking about some things I enjoy and put it all together to make this salad.  I've made it two more times since.  John is crazy about it.

This is so incredibly easy and just as pretty in a big 'ol punch bowl on the table.  The goat cheese crumbles paired with the bright dressing is a winner.  If you wanted to, you could add some grilled chicken - or better yet - salmon, and it would be a delicious meal all by itself.

So until Mother Nature decides to right her wrong, I'll make this salad, put on a tank top, turn down the thermostat and get my Winter on in one way or another.

Winter Salad with Citrus Poppyseed Vinaigrette 


For the Salad
  • mixed salad greens
  • mandarin oranges, drained
  • pomegranate seeds
  • goat cheese crumbles
  • Craisins 
  • toasted walnuts
For the Dressing
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp diced onion
  • 1 tsp Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • zest of half an orange
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
1. Layer all salad ingredients in large bowl.

2. Place juices, sugar, onion, mustard and salt in blender and mix.  Add oil in steady stream to emulsify.  Stir in zest.

3. Dress salad right before serving.

Recipe from The Lazy Daisy Kitchen.




Friday, January 6, 2017

weekend cinnamon rolls




Let me start out by saying that my favorite thing about this recipe is the fact it comes from my newest cookbook, My Recipes from Ruth's Kitchen, which is a collection of recipes beloved by John's great-aunt, Ruth, and put together by her daughter-in-law.  Let me tell you, it's a treasure trove of recipes, many of which came from Ruth herself and others contributed by close family.   I adore the intermittent stories behind some of the contributions, the family history woven throughout is endearing, and I love the nostalgia.

From what I understand, Ruth was not only an incredible cook, but she was quite a well-known candy maker around town, especially at Christmastime.  Every single one looks like such a treat!  I am already counting the days until the Christmas 2017 season, so I can give them a try.

And then there's the icing... Oh, my goodness-gracious, sakes alive.  It is absolutely delicious.  I did substitute the milk or half-and-half it called for with whole cream.  Maybe that's what took it over the top. 

These really are simple, hence the name of them.  And most of you, if not all, should have all ingredients on hand.  These rolls don't even require yeast, which is why I wanted to give them a try.  They had me intrigued, that's for sure.

If you are looking for a yeasty, fluffy roll, this is not it.  You'd be better off with my Amish Cinnamon Rolls, or better yet, Heavenly Cinnamon Rolls.  But if you think you would enjoy brown sugar and cinnamon all nestled in a spiral, flaky, tender, biscuit-like pastry, this is the recipe.  I'm hoping to make another pan this weekend and take to some neighbors that just moved in, which means there will happen to be an extra pan of them just lying around.  Hmm... wonder what I'll do with those?

With the slight let-down that always follows the week after the holidays for me, nothing sounds better than firing up the Keurig and popping these babies in the oven on a cold Saturday morning. Thank you, dear Lord, for the warmth and comfort even the simplest of life's pleasures can bring.  

What's your favorite sweet roll at sunrise?

Weekend Cinnamon Rolls

makes about 16 rolls

For the rolls
  • 4 cups self-rising flour
  • Buttermilk 
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 1 stick butter or margarine
  • Brown sugar (I used 1/2 cup)
  • Cinnamon (I used 2 tsp)
For the icing
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp softened butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • half-and-half or milk heavy cream to make a fairly thin glaze
1. Cut shortening into flour until it resembles meal.  Stir in enough buttermilk until dough leaves side of bowl (I used about a 1/4-1/2 cup).

2. Place dough on a well-floured surface and knead a few times.

3. Roll out dough into a rectangle (about 10x20-inch) about 3/8-1/2 inch thick.  Soften the butter to spreading consistency. Spread over the surface of the dough.Spread the brown sugar over the butter and sprinkle with cinnamon.

4. Roll up the dough along the long edge; I used a bench scraper (like this one) to help lift it off the counter and help prevent sticking.  Pinch the edge of the dough to seal.

5. Cut the dough into 3/4-inch slices.  Place the rolls (touching) on a greased cookie sheet. (I used two cake pans for mine).  Bake at 425 degrees until lightly browned.

6. Meanwhile, mix the powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla with enough cream to make the glaze.  Spread the glaze over hot rolls and serve immediately.  





Sunday, January 1, 2017

forever is a long time




Writing has always been a love of mine.  And it is even more so when I have music to inspire.  As the first day of the new year has been approaching, like so many of you, I've been thinking about how to begin it.  I've wanted to put my thoughts down as I did here a year ago and reflect on what has been and I hope will be for the days ahead.  The title of this post has been rolling around in my head for quite a while.  At times the words have brought me a little angst, but many times they've brought peace.  As I sat down to write this afternoon and turned on Pandora to my "Quiet Worship"station, It Is Well With My Soul was the first song to play.  Couldn't have been more fitting.

Growing up, Mom and Dad did some really great things as parents.  One thing I have appreciated as an adult is the value they always put on forever.  Of course their expectations for me were set at times with the "Beacause I said so," phrase we have all heard.  But more than that, they really ingrained in me the idea of how might my decisions matter in a hundred years.  Giving rules and boundaries for the sake of them really wasn't their style.  The bigger picture was always the setting, and so when it was time for me to leave their home, I had already learned to think through life with the larger impact in mind.  Does that mean every decision I made was right? Heaven's no.  And please know that those last two words should be bold-faced, quadrupled underlined and in 150 font.  But a compass had been established, and I'm so glad I didn't have to start the journey of finding my way at 18.  

Last week during our stay with family, my grandmother sat me down and gave me a box that contained the necklace you see here.  She had the wedding bands she and my grandfather chose on their 20th wedding anniversary and the cross pendant Popie gave her on their 25th soldered together to give to me.  Of course, I was an immediate puddle when I opened it up.  To see the band I remembered vividly on Popie's finger for most of my life now forever connected to my grandmother's along with the cross... well... there are just no words.  It moved a deep place in me that I can't explain. I've worn it every day since.  It's as though I inherited this tangible piece that embodies forever-ness. A real representation of what our family has experienced since my grandparents married in 1946. Lives lived together in good and bad times, yes, but built in unity upon the One who is forever, for forever.  It's what matters.

Last year I began a campaign I called, "Before My Feet Hit the Floor."  You can read about it here. It didn't take long for this small, tiny practice to become a habit, and now I crave waking up to see what God has to say to me.  Exactly one year later, I continue to hear His voice every morning. So many, many times, it's as though the words on the screen were meant just for me.  They speak to my life at that very moment, they bring comfort, they challenge, they forgive.

In this new year, I'm committing to remember the setting in which my thoughts, my actions, my words to my boys and John and the world reside.  As my parents taught me to do throughout childhood and especially those difficult teenage years, I want to think about the bigger picture, In a hundred years... I want it to come before I respond to a loved one when frustrated, before I make a big life decision, or before I choose even the smallest of options.  In a hundred years... What would happen if that preempted everything?  What kind of wife would I be?  What kind of mom?  What kind of daughter of the King? Perspective.  It would certainly put things into perspective.

So as I lay down my head tonight, I will begin this new endeavor.  I committed to one last year that challenged me the moment I woke up.  This one will close out my evenings of 2017. Whatever is on my heart for the day, whatever is rolling around in my brain that sometimes won't quit, whatever is keeping me from living in the peace God has called me to, I will look at it from the larger vantage point.  Because in a hundred years, it may or may not matter.  In a hundred years will be my forever and that is a very, very long time.  And when my forever matters to me, then it naturally affects the forevers of those I love and of those I might not even know.  And that is what will really matter in a hundred years.

Love and light to all in 2017,
Jen  


Saturday, December 31, 2016

fudge brownies with andes mint buttercream




Heading out this evening to ring in 2017?  I beg you, take these.

I've mentioned before how we always celebrate my dad's birthday with a new chocolate something. The brownies were my pick for him this year.  They are really chocolaty and wonderfully dense.  Topped with a peppermint buttercream icing and complete with chopped Andes mints, they can cure any hankering for something cool and sweet.  My grandmother ate them with a knife and fork, dipping each bite in her coffee.

A knife and fork brownie?  Yes, please. 

I have several great recipes I'm looking forward to sharing with you over the next couple of weeks and a very cool gadget I received at Christmas that has stolen my heart.  Until then, I hope your tonight is festive and fun.  I assure you it will be if you have these brownies in tow.

What's your favorite New Year's snack or sweet?  

For more of my dad's favorite chocolate goodies, try dark chocolate chocolate cake or winter wonderland chocolate peppermint cake.  Or maybe this chocolate cobbler is what you're looking for!

Fudge Brownies with Andes Mint Buttercream

makes one 9x13 pan

For the Brownies
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp espresso powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp coarse kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
For the Buttercream
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp meringue powder
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • 2 tbsp milk or cream
  • 1/2 package Andes mints, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray baking pan with nonstick spray.

2. Melt the butter in saucepan over medium heat.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa, espresso and salt.  

3. Pour the melted butter over the cocoa mixture and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth.  Add the vanilla, and the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg; batter will be very thick.

4. Stir in the flour, just until moistened, then the chocolate chips.  Spread evenly into pan.

5. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist, sticky crumbs clinging to it.  Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting or the buttercream will melt on the hot brownies.

6. To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat the butter for one minute.  

7. With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar and meringue powder until moistened.  Add the peppermint extract and the milk and whip on high speed until very light and fluffy.

8. Stir in the chopped mints and spread frosting over the brownies.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Friday, December 23, 2016

old-fashioned pecan logs




Growing up, we would travel to Florida every fall.  It was a different time then, and my parents didn't think twice about pulling me out of school for a week or ten days in October to head south. Teachers were excited for me.  They would load me up with daily homework and happily send me on my way.  I can very clearly remember waking each morning, sitting at the hotel desk in the room, and finishing up my academic requirements before hitting Disney or the beach.  First work, then play, right?

But even more clearly than that, I remember what we'd always do as soon as we'd cross the Florida state line.  We'd stop at the roadside stand for fresh orange juice and then the first Stuckey's we'd see to get Ma a pecan log.  She loved those things and still does.  My family doesn't make annual Florida trips anymore, but my sweet dad does travel with his job, and when he gets home, many times you'll find a pecan log sticking out of his pocket from a Cracker Barrel he's encountered.  Ma lights up when she sees it; she knows it's for her.

This year I decided I was going to try my hand at a homemade version.  I have wanted to try for what seems like forever, and this year was the year.  Ma has made it very clear she wants nothing for Christmas (except the annual calendar of pictures I make her, of which she reminds me from January until November).  But I am fairly certain that when she opens up one of her favorite confections, she'll receive it with a glad heart.

I can't say I've been a fan of marshmallow cream in the past.  I'm a chocolate girl, through and through.  But, folks, you have to hear me when I say these are so very, very good.  They are easy. They are seriously fun to make.  And the combination of the cream, the vanilla and almond flavorings, dipped first in caramel and then rolled in pecans... Oh. My.  I love me some Cracker Barrel, but I'm here to say there's no comparison.

I have wrapped the eight logs my recipe made in brown paper-like tissue and tied the ends off with raffia.  They just have a nostalgic feel and would make a great hostess gift, stocking stuffer or quick sweet addition to your dessert table this weekend.  An old-fashioned (family) candy Christmas.  Clark Griswold would be proud.

So, what's your favorite Christmas candy?  Would love to know! 

one year ago: aunt brenda's cranberry jello salada feast for the birdsgrandma puryear's punch

Old-Fashioned Pecan Logs

makes approximately eight 4-inch logs
printable recipe
  • 1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow cream
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 lb confectioner's sugar, sifted
  • 1 lb caramels
  • 2-3 tbsp evaporated milk
  • 2-3 cups coarsely chopped pecans
1. Mix cream, almond and vanilla in a large bowl (wooden spoon works well).  

2. Add in sifted sugar, kneading into the cream mixture as it's added.  This sounds like it's going to be hard, but it isn't at all.  Think of watching taffy being made, and how it's pulled and stretched. It takes a little while, but eventually, as you press and fold the marshmallow mixture, the sugar will become incorporated.

3. Roll cream into four eight-inch logs, about an inch in diameter.  Cut in half and wrap in wax paper, twisting ends to seal.  Store in refrigerator overnight, or at least 4-5 hours.

4. About 20 minutes before removing logs, melt caramels in double broiler.  You can do this by placing a heat safe bowl in a sauce pan with 1 to 2 inches of boiling water.  Make sure the bowl is bigger than the pan, so that it sits above the water and not in it.  Stir intermittently to keep caramels moving and melting evenly.  You can also heat in microwave in 15-20 second increments, stirring each time once caramels begin to melt.   

5. Add milk as caramels melt to ease stirring and thin out the caramel.

6. Remove logs from fridge and dip in caramel (I used tongs), allowing some of the excess to drip off.  Place in pan of chopped pecans and scoop pecan over log to help with the rolling of the log to cover.  This keeps it from sticking to your hands.  As you roll, gently press to ensure pecans stick.  

7. Re-wrap logs in wax paper and store in a cool, dry place.