Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Macaroni and Cheese

I decided to go with macaroni and cheese for our 4th of July cookout.  I was going to make macaroni salad but frankly, I don't like cold macaroni salad.  Call me unsouthern, I don't care.

This is my first time making this version of macaroni and cheese.  I keep hearing from people that it's the best version that they have ever had.  I figured that if that many people say it's good that it must be worth a shot, so I made a test batch for my mom, aunt, grandma, and sister.

Macaroni and Cheese:
(adapted from Pioneer Woman)

4 cups of elbow macaroni
½ stick of regular, salted butter
4 tbls all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups whole milk
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 egg
1 pound of cheese: This time I used White Cheddar and Swiss.
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta but be sure to leave it a bit undercooked since it'll be going in the oven.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg. Set aside. In a large saucepan or dutch oven, melt 1/2 stick of butter.  Sprinkle in 4 tablespoons flour.

Whisk the mixture together over medium-low heat until totally combined, make sure it doesn't burn.  Then continue cooking for around 5 minutes, whisking constantly.  Pour in 2 1/2 cups whole milk.  Immediately dump in 2 heaping teaspoons of dry mustard.

Now, whisk the mixture together and cook for about 5 minutes. It will get extremely thick, almost like a cream gravy.

At that point, reduce the heat to low. Use a 1/4 cup measure to retrieve a small amount of the sauce.

Pour the small amount of sauce into the beaten egg slowly.  Begin whisking constantly to avoid cooking the eggs. Whisk until cooled.  Then dump the tempered egg into the pan. Whisk together until combined.

Now dump in all but about 1/2 cup of the grated cheese.  Stir together until it’s all melted and turn off the heat.

Add about 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt. Add plenty of pepper.  Now just dump in the drained, not-fully-cooked macaroni. 

Pour into a baking dish, add more cheese on top, bake for 20-25 minutes.

I can't wait until I get to make this again.  Everyone at my house loved it. 

Here's my confession.  I used more than 1 pound of cheese.  I probably used a pound and a half.  I'm a little obsessed with cheese though.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Coconut Cupcakes

Easter was this past weekend.  My family doesn't usually throw a big Easter dinner.  We're more of the Thanksgiving/Christmas people.  Anyways... my aunt e-mailed me to see if I would be willing to bring desserts for the dinner.  Since I love desserts and I love making them I said sure!

I got the idea for the Coconut-Key Lime cupcakes from nestie Marafaye.

Coconut Cupcakes

by Ina Garten; The Barefoot Contessa
Makes 18-20 cupcakes

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.

Key Lime Buttercream Frosting:(Southern Living)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons of Key Lime zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 Tbsp lime juice
1 (16-oz) box powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoon milk


In a large bowl (or in a mixer), combine butter, vanilla, and lime zest. Beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Add powdered sugar alternately with Key lime juice, 1 Tbsp. at a time, and 1 Tbsp. milk, beating at low speed until blended and smooth after each addition. Beat in up to 1 Tbsp. additional milk for desired consistency.

New Orleans BBQ Shrimp

I saw this meal on Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate.  It looked amazing and next time I go to NOLA i'm going to find whatever restaurant had this on the menu.

I'm posting this as my own little shout out to the Gulf Coast.  As someone who enjoys eating shrimp and swimming in the gulf I feel like I can at least share some good food.  Anyway, enough of that.

NOLA BBQ Shrimp:

3 pounds unpeeled Shrimp (21-26 Count Or Larger)
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
¼ - ½ cup of Worcestershire Sauce
Tabasco sauce
6 ounces of beer (not cheap Natty Light)
4 sticks butter (yes, 4 sticks)
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 medium onion, very finely minced
3 - 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt and Pepper, to taste
2-3 tablespoons Old Bay


Rinse the shrimp to get any grit off. Be sure to leave the shell on. 21-26 count are easy to peel, so I wouldn’t go any smaller than that.

Melt a stick of the butter in a skillet. Sauté the garlic, onions, parsley, and seasoning blend for about 2 - 3 minutes.

Melt the rest of the butter. Add the beer, Worcestershire and lemon juice. Combine with the other butter mixture.

Place the shrimp on a large baking pan in a single layer and the butter. Generously sprinkle salt and black pepper over top of the shrimp. Don’t be afraid to use a decent amount. I also think it’s important to use a coarse grind on the pepper.

Drizzle the Tabasco sauce over the top of the shrimp. If you like spicy food add more hot sauce, whatever. :)

Make sure that the shrimp are pretty much covered by the butter sauce. If it’s not, add more butter. Bake at 350* for 10-20 minutes or until the shrimp are cooked through but not overdone.

** I’ve seen people add rosemary, liquid smoke, paprika, and sliced lemons to the dish. It’s a good excuse to try new things. **

** Photo from Southern Living Online.  Link includes their version of the recipe**

Monday, June 28, 2010

Chocomize- Make your own chocolate!

I found a new cool food site.  Chocomize is a web page that allows you to customize your own chocolate bar. 

The first step is to choose your chocolate.  You have a choice from dark, milk, or white chocolate.

Next you pick your toppings.  They have six different categories and you can choose up to five ingredients.  Some of my favorites were almonds, honey roasted soy beans, candied ginger, oreos, caramel pieces, junior mints, coffee, and pop rocks.  Mr. T was a fan of the chili powder and mini chipotle peppers.

I think the price is pretty good.  I've seen chili pepper chocolate bars in speciality food stores in town for $10-$11, which I think is a lot (but I'm kind of cheap).  The same bar is half the price here.

I'm thinking that there might be stocking suffers in my family's future.  I can't wait to place my order.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ok People...

I know that there are people who are reading this blog everyday but I don't have any followers!  What's the deal guys?!  I would love to hear your thoughts and be able to follow your blogs.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Seafood Sauce

I got this one from my mom.  It's simple and amazingly good.  It's great on shrimp, chicken, and fish but also really good on steamed broccoli, greens, lima beans, and anything else you could think of.

Seafood Basting Sauce:

1-2 T Old Bay Seasoning
1 stick real Butter
1 finely diced small onion
2 finely diced garlic cloves
juice of one lemon.
Saute onion and garlic in butter . Add Old Bay and lemon and stir until incorporated.

Use as a glaze on grilled, baked or broiled fish, shrimp, crab, or scallops. If you like mild flavor, cut back on the Old Bay.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A sneak peek...

Here's a preview of what's to come for the 4th.  This was a trial run.  One of my co-workers has a birthday coming up so we're celebrating it at work tomorrow.

They didn't really turn out layered like I was going for, but I think they look cute.

My icing was also a little too soft when I started piping. 

I hope that my next run will be a little better.  I guess taste is the most important part anyways.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Balsamic Vinaigrette

I love balsamic vinaigrette.  It's one of my favorites and this version is my favorite without a doubt.  It's a little thicker than most which I love because it coats the veggies more.  It is worth keeping some fresh, homemade dressing at home... if for no other reason than to show off to people that you make your own dressings.

Balsamic Vinaigrette:
(Book Lover’s Café)

1 tbsp parsley, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic, minced
2 tsp sugar
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 cups olive oil

Mix everything except oil in food processor. Slowly drizzle olive oil while processing.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dragonfly Sushi and Sake

Here is my restaurant review #1.  I have become a new lover of sushi thanks to my husband.  Dragonfly Sushi and Sake Co. is one of my favorite places in Gainesville to get sushi.

The atmosphere is pretty modern with an open kitchen and exposed duct work on the ceiling.  The staff has always been really polite and attentive without being annoying.  That's a big plus in my book.

Their drink menu is huge.  There is a wine section, a sake section, a beer section, and a regular cocktail menu.  Mr. T's favorite is the Mr. Kim.  It's a cocktail with sake, pineapple vodka, passion fruit juice, orange juice, and a slice of lime.  It tastes as good as it sounds.  I love their Mount Fuji.  It's another sake cocktail with Midori, pineapple juice, sour mix, sprite, grenadine, and a cherry.  It's fantastic, and now I want one.  :)

Now to the sushi.  It's really excellent.  The one below is the krispy krunch roll, it's my favorite.  It is filled with krab, tuna, cream cheese, roe, and avocado.  It's so good.

The small roll on the right is the Ebony and Ivory.  Eel, cream cheese, tempura shrimp, and eel sauce.  So good!

One thing to make sure you try is the Sushi Pizza.  It sounds weird and looks even weirder.  It's a flat sheet of rice and nori topped with krab and shrimp with may and cheese on it.  They bake it and serve it with scallions and eel sauce.  It's so bizarre.

Dragonfly is a great place to go for a special occasion.  It's not cheap and I wouldn't consider it a place to go wearing shorts.  I would however recommend it to anyone looking for a fun night on the town.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Lemon Blossoms

When I was a kid I wanted giant desserts.  The thought of a giant brownie with a scoop of ice cream and chocolate sauce was the high point of my day.  The older I get the more I turn to something fruity and small.  These lemon blossoms are the perfect two-bite treat. 

Lemon Blossoms:
(Paula Deen)

18 1/2-ounce package yellow cake mix
3 1/2-ounce package instant lemon pudding mix
4 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil

4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 lemon, zested
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray miniature muffin tins with vegetable oil cooking spray. Combine the cake mix, pudding mix, eggs and oil and blend well with an electric mixer until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour a small amount of batter, filling each muffin tin half way. Bake for 12 minutes. Turn out onto a tea towel.

To make the glaze, sift the sugar into a mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice, zest, oil, and 3 tablespoons water. Mix with a spoon until smooth.

With fingers, dip the cupcakes into the glaze while they're still warm, covering as much of the cake as possible, or spoon the glaze over the warm cupcakes, turning them to completely coat. Place on wire racks with waxed paper underneath to catch any drips. Let the glaze set thoroughly, about 1 hour, before storing in containers with tight-fitting lids.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Official 4th of July Cookout Menu!

It's settled.  I have 99% of the menu set for the 4th of July.

Hamburgers and hot dogs with all of the fixings

Bacon-Ranch Potato Salad

Baked Beans

Macaroni and Cheese

Cole Slaw

Corn Salad

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Spinach Artichoke Dip

I haven't decided on a dessert yet.  Have a favorite?  Let me know!

Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

I love mashed potatoes.  Whenever we have a large family dinner i'm in charge of brining them.  I also love cheese.  There is something about the creamy potatoes and the bite of the cheddar cheese.  It's amazing.  My mom loves to make her potatoes with a little bit of chicken or beef stock to make them richer. Just something to think about.

Cheddar Mashed Potatoes:

3 large Idaho potatoes
1/3 stick of butter
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup half-n-half or cream
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cut up potatoes into cubes and boil until soft.

Using a stand mixer or a hand held potato masher mash the potatoes until they are at the consistancy that you like.

Add half-n-half, sour cream, salt and pepper, cheddar cheese, and butter.  Mix everything together so the butter and cheese melt.

Depending on what's going on with the weather and potatoes you have at the time you're making this you might need to add a little more or a little less butter, sour cream, or half-n-half.  Just keep tasting them until they are how you like it.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

White Acre Peas

Field peas are a big deal where i'm from.  Field peas include: pink eyed peas, black eyes peas, purple hull peas, butter beans, and white acre peas.  My favorites are the pink eyed and white acre peas.  They are easy to make and freeze well.  Every family has their own way of making them but here is mine.

White Acre Peas:

1/2 bushel of white acre peas (or any other field pea that you'd like)
1 slice of thick ham or 4 slices of bacon (omit if you'd like to make this a vegetarian dish)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Wash the shelled peas to make sure they're free of dirt or sand
Pour into a deep pot and fill with water.
Chop bacon or ham (I like bacon, but who doesn't) and add to pot of peas
Place a lid on the pot and let boil, stirring occasionally until the peas are tender, about 30-35 minutes

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


My grandmother made the best meatloaf ever.  It's just one of those dishes that make me think of her.  Now it's my turn to make it for her.

Grandma's Meatloaf:

2 pounds of ground beef
1/4 cup ketchup, minus some for the top of the meatloaf
1 egg
1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon Italian seasonings
1/3 red onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed.
salt and pepper to taste

Dump everything into the meat and mix well.  I form my meatloaf in less of a "loaf" shape and more of a large patty.  I do it because everyone likes to get the end piece of meatloaf and this way there's more crunchy bits for everyone to get.  After the meatloaf is formed and in the baking pan top with some of the remaining ketchup.

Bake at 350* for 40-45 minutes.  Drain grease from the pan before serving.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Not So Homemade Baked Beans

Not So Homemade Baked Beans:

1 can of your favorite baked beans
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (I use a sweeter sauce)
4 strips of your favorite bacon, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.

Empty beans into an oven safe bowl.  Add in brown sugar and BBQ sauce and mix.  If adding bacon place the pieces on top along with a sprinkle of more brown sugar.  If you put the bacon on top it'll get crispy in the oven.

Bake beans until bacon is crisp and the bean sauce is bubbling.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Chili Con Queso

This came from one of the women I work with.  Thanks Marilyn!!

Chili Con Queso:
1 Spanish onion, chopped
2 small cans of diced green chilies
1 large can of diced tomatoes
1-2 diced jalapenos
American cheese, cut up into small cubes  (I used 2 small bricks)
2 cups of cheddar cheese
1/4 half-n-half

In a large pot heat up 2 tablespoons of bacon fat or vegetable oil.  Sauté onions. 

Add chilies, tomatoes, and jalapenos and stir.  Do not drain the chilis or tomatoes.

When that is hot start adding cheese a little at a time.  Keep stirring and adding more cheese.  Add half-n-half.

Stir until all of the cheese is melted and everything is combined.

I used Kraft American Cheese.  I found it in the same section of the store as Velveeta.  I tried to find a link to it but Kraft does not have it on their website anymore.  My coworker told me that she gets American cheese from our local wholesale store.  I also added cheddar to mine because I needed something to cut the richness from the american cheese.  I found that a little bit of half-n-half helped too.

This is really awesome and easy to make dip.  Make it the day before and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator so the chilies have time to heat up the cheese.  YUM!!

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Another recipe from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea by Martha Foose.  I love sweet potatoes and I love biscuits.  This sounded like a perfect combination to me!  Serve warm with a little butter and honey!

Sweet Potato Biscuits:
(Screen Doors and Sweet Tea)

1 cup mashed baked sweet potato
2/3 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 ½ teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 450*. Grease a baking sheet and set aside.

In a medium bowl, the sweet potato, milk, and butter. Sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add to the potato mixture. Gently mix the dry ingredients into the sweet potato mixture to form a soft dough. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a deep golden orange tinged with brown. Serve warm or let cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

German Chocolate Cake Truffles

I've got the baking itch. I decided to make "cake truffles" tonight. I've never made them before and I hear people talk about them all the time so I decided to give them a try.  I got the idea for them from Bakerella.  The ones she makes are seriously cute, she even makes them into mini pops.  Mine were not as amazing.

What you need:
1 box of cake mix- any flavor you want.  Tonight I went with a marble cake.
1 can of store bought frosting.  I used a coconut pecan one tonight.
Baking chocolate.  You can use white or milk.
Make the cake mix as directed.  When the cake comes out of the oven let it cool and then crumble it up.  Mix the icing with the crumbled cake.  Roll the cake and icing mixture into small balls, about the size of a quarter.  Refrigerate and let the cake cool (several hours).
After the cake balls cool, melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave.  Dip the balls in the chocolate and place them on a sheet of wax paper to cool.

OK, so here's the deal.  I was seriously impatient tonight and didn't let things cool as I should have.  My cute little cake balls look more like boulders than spheres.  While I was melting my chocolate some of the steam got in there and my chocolate got all wonky.  Oh well.  They may look ugly but they still taste pretty good.

Mom's Bean Dip

Whenever we had friends coming over after school my mom would whip out this bean dip.  She would either layer it in a regular Pyrex mixing bowl so all of the layers would show or mix everything together with a topping of cheese and lettuce.  Either way, it was amazing.  She would always load it up with tons of veggies so we would end up getting our daily allowance in.

Mom's Bean Dip:

2 cans vegetarian refried beans
1/2 cup mayo
1 cup sour cream
2 diced fresh tomatoes
1-2 cups shredded lettuce
1 onion chopped
1 package taco seasoning mix
4 chopped seeded jalapeno peppers
2 cups shredded jack cheese

Mix up 3/4 cheese with beans,3/4 sour cream,mayo,taco mix, 3/4 onions and 3/4 tomatoes.

Place in a colorful bowl on a platter. Top the dip with remaining cheese,onion,sour cream,tomatoes, lettuce, and peppers.

Serve with tortilla chips and blue corn chips.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Thai Peanut Noodle

When I was in college I worked for a small vegetarian cafe.  We served a lot of really interesting foods and working there made me expand my palate. One of the side dishes that I eventually learned to love was the Thai Peanut Noodle salad.  We served it cold which is fine, but when it's warm it's amazing.

This can be made gluten free by using gluten free soy sauce, but make sure you check your peanut butter.  If it's not natural there could be some fillers.

Thai Peanut Noodle:
(Book Lover’s Cafe)

¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup soy sauce
½ tablespoon hot sauce
1/3 cup toasted sesame oil
¾ cup peanut butter
½ cup water
1 package of mung bean (cellophane) or rice noodles

Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add noodles. Lower heat and simmer for eight minutes.
Whisk vinegar, soy sauce, hot sauce, sesame oil, peanut butter, and water in a bowl until smooth.
Rinse and drain noodles in cold water. Toss with peanut sauce and garnish with chopped green onions.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sweet Potatoes... On Crack!

It's been a rough day for Mrs. T.  In an attempt for me to get my mind off of things I have been going through my cookbooks.  Some of them I haven't looked at since my bridal shower.  One of the ones I was looking at was Screen Doors and Sweet Tea by Martha Hall Foose.  It's a great cookbook that is full of amazing southern recipes.

I haven't been able to make any of these recipes yet but I've been slowly going through the book and typing them up so I'll have them whenever I have a chance to start cooking.  Here's one that I found tonight.  It looks amazing.

Inside-out Sweet Potatoes:

(Screen Doors & Sweet Tea)

1 cup crushed cornflakes
1 large egg
6 sweet potatoes, baked and mashed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon sherry, bourbon, or vanilla extract
8 large marshmallows
Canola oil, for frying (1 ½ cups)

Put the cornflake crumbs in a shallow dish. Beat the egg with 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl, set aside.

Combine the mashed sweet potatoes with the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking powder, flour, orange juice, and sherry. Working with your hands, use the mixture to encase each marshmallow, forming a ball. Dip each ball in the egg wash and then roll in the crumbs. Refrigerate while preparing to fry.

Preheat oven to 200*. Set a wire rack over newspaper or paper towels to cool and drain the balls after frying.

In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat to 375*.

Fry the balls one or two at a time for 3-4 minutes, turning as needed, until lightly browned. Remove with a spider or slotted spoon, and place the drained balls on the prepared rack and in the oven to keep warm while frying the remaining batches. Serve warm.

**photo credit:**