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.  

Saturday, December 10, 2016

lazy daisy waffles

I have a man living in my house who is not my husband.  I'm not sure how it came to be, but much to my dismay, Daniel cannot be referred to as a boy any longer.  He has nearly passed me in height, has definitely passed me in shoe size, and his voice has dropped ten octaves.  Well, maybe just one, but  when it seems like it was just yesterday he was learning how to say his first words, one can feel like ten.

Not too long ago, he had a couple of friends over to spend the night.  In the quiet of the morning, as we were getting ready to head to Luke's ballgame, he and his friends erupted in laughter and started joking around.  The TV wasn't on, music wasn't playing.  The sound was so immense, I think our walls rattled.  I looked at John and said, "Those men we hear up there are our son and his friends."  It almost came out of me as a lament.

Lately, we have had several weekends of boys men hanging out, and just as the voices have dropped, so have their stomachs expanded.  That means lots of food needs to be on hand.

Parents of teenage boys, can I get an, "Amen!"

I have clung to this recipe every time, and I love it. You just can't mess these up.  And you want to know the best part?  You can make the batter and store in the fridge!  So easy!  Just throw out your favorite toppings on the counter... chopped fruit, nuts, syrup, honey... you name it.  And don't forget the chocolate and caramel drizzle, oh, and Luke would say the can of whipped cream.  A waffle bar on a Saturday morning might be my favorite thing going lately.  Give it a whirl.  You'll be "waffle-y" glad you did!

Lazy Daisy Waffles

makes approximately 8 Belgium waffles (depends on size of iron)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat waffle iron. Beat eggs in large bowl with blender until fluffy. Beat in flour, milk, oil, sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla, until smooth.

2. Spray waffle iron with cooking spray. Pour mix onto hot iron. Cook until golden brown. Serve hot.

*To keep warm until ready to serve, heat oven to 200 degrees and place on cookie sheet in a single layer.