Thursday, August 30, 2012

Brown Sugar Banana Muffins with Avocado Buttercream

Friends, I have turned a corner.

A baking corner.

I used to be terrified of baking.  TERRIFIED.  But the other day I did it, just for fun.  

No 'Sundays with Joy' recipe to tackle, no friends coming over, nada.  I was just sitting on the couch, about ready to mutter those ugly words of "I'm bored!", and decided to do something about it before that phrase could escape my lips.

Even before I flipped through a cookbook I thought about all of those delicious pictures I have pinned and repinned on Pinterest and decided to just go through, one at a time, until I found one that I had all the ingredients on hand.  After three recipes, I found it:  Brown sugar banana muffins with avocado buttercream from How Sweet It Is.

I know, mine didn't come out as pretty as hers.  It's OK.  I made avocado buttercream!  And it tasted good.  Once I got over the color being on top of a muffin/cupcake (which I must admit, is actually growing on me...) I decided I liked it.  A lot.

And so did my friend Myra.  She told me I had enough and took the rest of them home with her yesterday.  Proof that avocado plus sugar is a good idea.

Bananas & avocados.  Two fruit that stand in solidarity, side by side, yet nobody knew...

For the recipe, please visit How Sweet It is HERE.  And then you can laugh at how ugly my frosting looks compared to hers ;)

*She used sour cream, which I didn't have, so I used buttermilk -- which I also didn't have.  I actually 'made' it by mixing milk with a little bit of vinegar and a tad of melted butter.  As far as I can tell, it worked just fine!
** My batched yielded 12 muffins, so I cut the avocado buttercream recipe in half.

COST: $4.95    Cost per muffin (12): $0.42

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Wednesday Files

Let me share what is on my mind this particular Wednesday...
  1. I am scared of my Sundays with Joy recipe for this week.  I have to make a pie crust.  From scratch.  Kinda freaking out over this... Yes, baking still scares me at times.
  2. I had four students cry within the first hour of school.  No, I am not a mean and awful teacher... they were crying because of outside things (Mom isn't feeling well, somebody was mean to them over the weekend, tired...).  So I looked at my lesson plan book, closed it, and pulled out some feel-good games.  A friend scavenger hunt is so much better for lifting spirits up than finding the index in a non-fiction text.  (Sometimes you just gotta do what you just gotta do.)
  3. I made avocado butter cream frosting yesterday.  It is... well... I haven't decided yet.  I will let you know after I eat some more.
  4. I need a pedicure and a manicure like RIGHT NOW.  If you saw my nails... ick.
  5. I got up early (again) on Monday to work out and I loved the results of the rest of the day.  Going to try to make this a more common habit.
  6. My feet hit the sand this past weekend (see above).  There were some ukuleles, a guitar, and a whole lot of friends.  It was beautiful.
That's what's floating around my head... how about yours?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

One Week, One Menu, One Shopping List

Sometimes I feel the need to create a menu to share with you.  Right now is one of those times.
(Click any header or picture for accompanying recipe.  The shopping list for this menu is included below.)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

100 Brazilian Foods You Must Try

I love lists.  To-do lists, bucket lists (or in my case reverse bucket lists), lists of top 10 whatever.  And Shelley, an American figuring out how to live life in Brazil, found the most awesome list... 100 Brazilian Foods You Must Try.  So let's see how I am doing...

100 Brazilian dishes to try
  1. Doce de batata doce (sweet potato purée/jam/jelly)
  2. Churrasco (Brazilian-style BBQ)
  3. Bala de banana Oliveira ou similares (not sure what this is...)
  4. Tapioca 
  5. Pizza assado no forno à lenha (Brazilian style pizza)
  6. Feijão tropeiro (a variation of the feijão or beans)
  7. Arroz carreteiro (a rice dish)
  8. Açaí na tijela (Acai bowl with fruit and honey)
  9. Paçoca de amendoim (peanut candy)
  10. Pato no tucupi (some sort of duck dish)
  11. Maniçoba (???)
  12. Baião de dois (Dish from Northeast)
  13. Acarajé (Street food from Bahia)
  14. Pamonha (sweet corn paste wrapped in corn leaf and boiled)
  15. Dobradinha (tripe stew)
  16. Rapadura (a sweet)
  17. Farofa de içá
  18. Barreado
  19. Pastel de feira (my FAVORITE street food!)
  20. Couve refogada com alho (cooked kale with garlic)
  21. Sanduíche de pernil (a pork sandwich, pernil is the pork leg)
  22. Palmito (palm hearts)
  23. Umbu em natura (a fruit)
  24. Pacu (a type of fish)
  25. Camarão na moranga (a shrimp stew served in a pumpkin)
  26. Doce de abóbora (pumpkin jam/sweet)
  27. Feijoada (the classic Brazilian dish, based on beans and varied meats served with rice, orange and couve, a sort of cabbage)
  28. Galinhada com pequi (a chicken stew)
  29. Peixe na telha (a fish dish)
  30. Biscoito de polvilho (very Brazilian, and irresistible little biscuits)
  31. Galinha à cabidela
  32. Pão de mel com doce de leite (literally honey bread, very nice)
  33. Any fish baked in folha de bananeira (banana tree leaf)
  34. Queijo na brasa (grilled cheese sticks on beach)
  35. Curau (juice from corn)
  36. Torta de liquidicador (homemade biscuits with vegetables)
  37. Café coado no filtro de pano (coffee passed through a cloth filter)
  38. Caldo de cana (sugar-cane juice usually served with ice and lemon. LOVE IT.)
  39. Arroz, feijão, bife e batata frita (rice, beans, steak and fries... typical Brazilian plate)
  40. Buchada de bode (mutton dish)
  41. Bolo de rolo (a rolled, sweet bread)
  42. Furrundum
  43. Chá mate gelado (chilled mate tea)
  44. Rabada (oxtail stew)
  45. Vaca atolada (beef stew with yucca)
  46. Pitanga (a fruit)
  47. Quibebe (pumpkin dish)
  48. Pintando na brasa (BBQ fish)
  49. Cuscuz paulista (corn-based dish)
  50. Quebra queixo (hard sugar-based sweet)
  51. Pingado de padaria (a must-have, served in Brazilian diners, hot milk with a little of coffee)
  52. Quindim (egg-yolk-based sweet)
  53. Cajuzinho (cashew-nut sweet)
  54. Sorvete de milho (sweet corn ice cream)
  55. Sarapatel (very common in Bahia)
  56. Bolinho de chuva 
  57. Caruru (a type of stew, also common in Bahia)
  58. Frango com quiabo (chicken with okra)
  59. Leitão à pururuca (pork dish)
  60. Canjica doce (sweet corn pudding)
  61. Pinhão (type of pine nut, usually baked, common in the South)
  62. Vinho quente (hot wine)
  63. Cachaça artesanal de qualidade (artisan quality cachaça)
  64. Pão de queijo (cheese bread)
  65. Caldeirada de tucunaré 
  66. Moqueca (very common in Bahia, a fish stew with lobster and shrimp, coconut milk and other goodies)
  67. Mandioca frita (fried yucca)
  68. Broa de fubá (a sort of pastry made from corn flour)
  69. Jaca (you have to know how to eat this fruit, but it´s worth it. Very nutritious. Ask a native to serve it)
  70. Sonho de padaria (a type of doughnut)
  71. Anything made with cupuaçu (a fruit)
  72. Requeijão cremoso (the Brazilian version of cream cheese)
  73. A whole cumari pepper (hot)
  74. Churrasco grego (literally Greek BBQ, no idea what it is)
  75. Queijo de Minas fresco (fresh cheese from Minas Gerais, sold in other parts of Brazil)
  76. Misto quente (amazing stuff, grilled ham and cheese sandwich that somehow tastes better in Brazil)
  77. Caldo de piranha (pirana broth)
  78. Doce de leite mineiro (doce de leite from Minas Gerais)
  79. Brigadeiro (the all-Brazilian sweet, chocolate with granules… Brazilian birthday candy)
  80. Acerola (a small berry-like fruit, similar to pitanga, with lots of vitamin C. Usually in juices or ice-cream)
  81. Bobó de camarão (a shrimp stew, or similar)
  82. Pudim de leite condensado (condensed milk pudding, like a flan but more consistent and sweeter)
  83. Manjar de coco (a very sweet coconut pudding)
  84. Refrigerante de guaraná (guaraná soft drink)
  85. Coxinha (street/fast food, with chicken filling in potato and bread crumbs and fried)
  86. Caldo de mocotó (mocotó is the marrow from the hoof of a cow, calf, ox, used to make a broth)
  87. Romeu e Julieta (a slice of goiabada, guava jelly, and cheese served as a dessert)
  88. Chimarrão (like the Argentinian mate)
  89. Virado à Paulista 
  90. Jaboticaba no pé (a fruit picked from the tree)
  91. Bala de coco de festa de aniversário (birthday coconut sweets, very typical, with the brigadeiro)
  92. Bolinho de bacalhau (cod croquette)
  93. Beirute (a very nice meat sandwich)
  94. Caldinho de feijão (bean broth)
  95. Melão produzido em Mossoró-RN (melon from Mossoró, Rio Grande do Norte, in the North)
  96. Milho assado (baked corn on the cob, tough to eat if you ask me)
  97. Batata doce assada (baked sweet potato)
  98. Caipirinha (made with cachaça)
  99. Geléia de mocotó
  100. Caju (the fruit, not nut -- I have had the juice)

    40/100? Not too bad!  Guess I need to get to the Northeast so I can check some more off my list ;)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

His and Hers: The tale of two biscuits

This week's Sundays with Joy recipe was jalapeno, chive, and cheddar biscuits.  I like cheddar and chives, but I am a little afraid of jalapenos.  Probably stems from the time my best friend and I decided that we were Native Americans and needed to go hunting and gathering... in our neighbors yard.  Picked up some good stuff, too.  Except for the jalapeno.  Darn thing was hot, made us cry, and then we rubbed our eyes with our jalapeno-juice-smeared hands.  Now the tears were really falling, and our noses were runny, and of course we tried to rub the snot away... with those same jalapeno-juice-smeared hands.

Let's just say I never went "gathering" in someone else's yard since.

Or let a jalapeno get anywhere near me.

But I decided I would be bold.  I heard, from Joy the Baker herself (the source of this recipe), that if you take out the seeds the jalapeno isn't that hot.  So bold I did.  And I had some jalapeno, chive, and cheddar biscuits.

You know what?  I can do jalapeno in biscuits!  I was just really cautious as I was take out the seeds... there was no accidentally touching my eyes at that moment.  No sirree, I learned that lesson years ago.

My husband, on the other hand, said, "NO WAY!"  He is a hater of all things spicy and is actually allergic to some peppers, so he was not even willing to attempt being bold with me.  When I asked him what we wanted instead he thought about it and then settled on kale.  He wanted kale biscuits.


But whatever.  Different can be done.  Besides, I still had my yummy biscuits all to myself anyway ;)

Since I was putting kale in there, a favorite Brazilian veggie, I threw in some other favorite Brazilian items: mozzarella and red bell pepper.  And some cheddar as well, because cheddar tastes amazing and everyone should eat it every chance they get, Brazilian men included.

What did we discover?  Kale biscuits -- they sound weird, but they taste GOOD.

You know, I believe in that whole 'what's your is mine and mine is yours' mantra in regards to marriage.  Except for these biscuits.  Both were great, but I guarded mine and he guarded his.  I guess we can say, once again, Joy's recipe was a success.  And so was mine.  SCORE!

For the jalapeno biscuit recipe, get yourself a copy of Joy's fabulous book.  
For the kale biscuit recipe, here you go:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
4½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon cream of tartar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup of milk + 1 teaspoon of white vinegar mixed to make buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 of a red bell pepper, diced
1 large handful of kale, chopped small
olive oil
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup cubed cheddar cheese
1 1/2 stick unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
Coarse sea salt for topping
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with tin foil.
2.  In skillet over medium heat. saute kale in small amount of olive oil until just tender, about 3 minutes.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 of the milk combo and egg. In another small bowl, toss together the kale, cheeses, and bell pepper.
3. Add the butter to the flour mixture and use your fingers to work the butter into the flour until the flour resembles coarse meal.  
4. Toss the kale mixture into the flour mixture. Create a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the milk and egg mixture all at once. Toss together with a fork, making sure that all of the flour bits are moistened by the buttermilk. Dump the biscuit dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly, just enough to bring the dough together.
5. Pat the dough until about 1 inch thick.  Cut the dough into 2 inch squares. Gather the dough scrapes, pat into a new circle and cut more squares. Repeat until all of the dough has been used.  (You can use a round biscuit cutter if you are fancy like that.)
6. Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheets, brush the tops with buttermilk and sprinkle them with the sea salt. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top. If you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container at room temperature. You can eat them straight from there the next day, or reheat in a 350-degree oven until warmed through.

COST: $4.89   Cost per biscuit (12): $0.41

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Perfect Day... (Honey Mustard Salmon)

Today was one of those days...

No, not 'one of those days' said with an Eeyore voice.

It was truly a perfect day.  You know, one of those days.

Sometimes you sit down at the end of the day and you think, "Nothing too out of the ordinary happened today, but I am more than content."  The sun was out (which, as you know, is possibly my favorite thing), I spent some time at a job that suits me perfectly (and is filled with children who love to give hugs), and then came home to see my man.  Like I said, nothing out of the ordinary, no surprises or big news or adventures... but when I stop and look at it, I realize this is exactly where I want to be.

And then I got to eat honey mustard salmon tonight.  If my day wasn't great to begin with, this would have put it there.

I mean, really, how can life be bad when you have this food in front of you?  Yeah, that's what I thought... it's pretty much impossible.

Recipe adapted from Everyday Food, September 2012 (Not up on the website YET)


  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon honey
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced and rounds separated
  • 1 lb. salmon, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 lb. green beans, ends trimmed off
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Line baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Mix honey, mustard, vinegar, olive oil, and some salt and pepper together to create a vinaigrette.  Mix 1/3 of the vinaigrette with the onions and spread on baking sheet.  Bake for 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, remove 1 Tablespoon of remaining vinaigrette and set aside in medium bowl (to mix with green beans later).  Mix bread crumbs with the rest of the vinaigrette.  
  4. Pull onions out of oven when five minutes is up, and place salmon pieces on top of onions.  Then, cover with the breadcrumb mixture.  Place baking tray back into oven and bake for seven minutes until fish is cooked.  Bread crumbs should be lightly golden brown.
  5. Meanwhile, boil salted water and drop green beans in, cooking for about four minutes.  Drain green beans and mix with the vinaigrette that was set aside in the medium bowl.
  6. Serve onions and green beans together, and salmon on the side.  Enjoy!

COST: $11.55   Cost per serving (says 4, but we got 3): $3.85

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Work-it! (The Wednesday Files)

Wanna be let in on a little secret?  Ok, here it is: I can be a total sloth and I have to trouble doing so.

But I am trying to change that.  This summer I just decided one day, "You know, this is not the best thing for my life."  True, I hit the gym every once in awhile, and a year or two ago I was a regular at Zumba, but honestly, if I didn't need to push myself, I didn't.  I rather liked just lounging around, doing my other stuff.  And then the squishy belly started happening...

That was a shocker.

For someone who used to be teased by classmates saying, "Don't get lost down the bathtub drain!" and had nicknames like Shrimp and Toothpick (and was on occasion referred to as a skeleton), I never thought the day would come when pudge was a part of my life.  Yet, at some point it started.

So, yes, that pudge is part of my motivation.  But there is a bigger part to it -- I want to live a long and healthy life.  And being thin does not necessarily mean being fit.  I know.  I was super thin and super unhealthy.  First I changed my diet (vegetables have flavor, you guys... who knew?!) and now I am trying to get into a routine of working out.  No, this is not because I think I am overweight; I am not and I am grateful to the good genes my mama passed on to me for that.  This is about something bigger --this is because my heart and bones need to be strong so I can live life FULLY.

It takes some time to get going, and a little bit of Jillian Michaels barking orders at me.  And a lot of upbeat music.  But I am getting going... I even woke up a little bit early today (5:50 in the morning early!) to make sure I had time to work out today.  And I feel pretty good.  Actually, I feel more awake than I normally do after work.

It's been about one month of getting a few exercise times in per week, but I am going to try to be a little more consistent from here on out.  I may not look that graceful when I am doing it, but I am improving I feel my endurance and strength improving.  And that is why I am doing it.  Now, if I happen to lose that pudge, I won't complain ;)

Any tips to help me keep it up?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Broccoli & Pecorino Tart (Grown-up Trees with Cheese)

Broccoli.  It's one of those things I don't love.  I don't hate it, either.  In fact, I'm on solid neutral-status with it.

Except when my mom would make 'Trees with Cheese'.  Oh man, broccoli with melted Velveeta on top?  Yeah, it was six-year-old-veggie-Heaven.

But now I am all grown up and have no kids of my own, so it would be a little odd to make 'Trees with Cheese', or would it be?  How about a grown up version of it?  Now that would be great, not odd!

Broccoli, cheese, olive oil, lots of garlic (remember this blog title???), shredded Pecorino Romano, and some salt.  Mix it, spread it on thawed out puff pastry, and bake at 400F.  Simple.  And then we can all enjoy Trees with Cheese.. but this time it can be twenty-something-veggie-Heaven.


Recipe slightly altered from Everyday Food, September 2012


  • two small heads broccoli, cut up
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Pecorino Romano cheese
  • thawed puff pastry, stretched out slightly
  1. Mix broccoli, garlic, olive oil, and salt in mixing bowl.
  2. Spread puff pastry out on top of foil lined baking sheet.  Using a butter knife (or scoring knife if you are fancy like that), make a slight border around the edges.  
  3. Spread broccoli mix over pastry.  Bake at 400F for 17 - 19 minutes, until puff pastry is lightly golden. Remove and let cool.  Serve at room temperature.

COST: $4.19    Cost per serving (4):$1.05

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Not-Popcorn Popcorn (AKA my salvation)

Thirteen years back something tragic happened.  I found out that I could not eat popcorn.  Weird, I know.  But true.  And like I said, quite tragic.

That might not sound that tragic to you, but imagine, if you will, going to the movies, with that wonderfully salty and buttery smell wafting through the air and having to use all the self-control you can muster to just say no.  You sit down next to a family, munching and crunching their way through their bags of popcorn, and you can see it, smell it, hear it,  and yet you still must find the self-control to just say no.

Frankly, this sucks.  And so you will find very few movie stubs in my wallet.

But alas!  A new day has dawned in the life of Tiffany!  And it all started with Joy the Baker...

Joy wrote a book.
This book inspired Carrie to create a cooking group.
That cooking group sounded interesting and so I joined.
I, along with my fellow Joy-fanatics, set out to cook every recipe in the book.
One of these recipes was for 'Perfect Kettle Corn'.
'Perfect Kettle Corn' and myself would not mix very well so I asked the fellow Joy bakers for ideas.
Many women gave great ideas, but Becca gave the best one: rice cakes.
Rice cakes were bought, melted butter and sugar were whisked together, and Rice Cake Kettle Corn was created.
And I lived happily ever after.

Look at it:  Looks like popcorn, right?  And it tastes very, very similar.  My man who has declared for years that he doesn't like popcorn tried it, liked it, and went for more.  Problem solved for both us... it's a win-win.

Who knew joining this group would not only be good for my cooking skills but would open so many doors, as well?  I didn't, but I am glad that I do now!

Recipe inspired by Joy the Baker's Perfect Kettle Corn

1 pack rice cakes (I used the lightly salted ones)
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons granulated sugar


  1. Using your hands, take one rice cake at a time and break into smaller chunks.  (If you do more than one you will get individual rice pieces, which you do not want.)
  2. Over medium heat, melt half of the butter and add half of the sugar.  Mix in half of the rice cake chunks and stir.  Remove from pot and repeat with the other half.  
  3. Put all together, pop in movie, and enjoy.

Cost: $2.44 per large bowl

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sweet Tea -- A Taste of the South

I have a drink-love-affair with this here sweet tea.  You may think you know sweet tea, but you do not know Doug and Leigh's sweet tea.

Being a California girl myself, my "experience" with this went something like this: you order tea at the restaurant, you rip open six packets or so of sugar, you dump them in, stir, and then decide it still tastes too bitter.  And then you ask yourself, "Why on earth did I order tea?!"

And then I met Doug and Leigh.  They so graciously sponsored my every-other-week six hours back into American reality while I lived on Ebeye and they lived on the US Army base, three miles over.  Not only did they have fresh water showers (that were warm), a washer and dryer (that worked), and good home cooking (that included fresh vegetables and fruit), but they had their Alabama charm -- and part of that was sweet tea.

I don't think I have ordered a glass of icky California tea since.

So now, if I get the chance to go to that part of the country for whatever reason, I call them up and say, "Please, pretty please, have lots of tea waiting for me!"  And they always do...

Here's how they do it, in Leigh's own words:

Here's how I make it. I use two family sized Luzianne tea bags and steep them in boiling water for 30 minutes to a whole really doesn't matter. I put 1 and 1/2 cups sugar in a gallon container and pour in the steeped water, then add to make a gallon.

Simple, and really REALLY sweet.  

Just the way I like it.

(Notice I made the brand large?  Well, that's because that is the secret, so I am told.  Liptons = no good (for this recipe).  Luzianne = EXCELLENT.)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Turtle-Candy Tart -- A Taste of the South

My little Palauan fourth graders were sitting at my feet, listening to me read Peter and Fudge's story in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.  It was the point where Peter learns that his (rather annoying) little brother Fudge not only killed Peter's turtle, but he ate it.

"Ew!" I said in overly exaggerated disgust.  "He ATE a turtle!"

I looked down at these nine-year-olds expecting to see horror on their faces. Nothing.  And then one little voice popped up...

"Teacher, of course he did.  Turtle is food."

Turtle is food?  Huh.  Clearly this was something that my culture never shared with me.

Don't worry, I don't have a turtle recipe to share with you.  Well, I do, but it isn't green, shelled turtle.  I think I would have the PETA people here in a heartbeat if I did.  No, I have a Turtle-Candy Tart.  No reptile, lots of sweetness.  That's turtle I can enjoy.

This is another one of those, "Let me make your house my photo studio" posts from Alabama.  But this recipe I actually had a part in making.  My friend Blaine made the chocolate-graham cracker crust, I made the caramel center, and Lisa made the ganache topping.  We make a great team, don't we?

I never realized how incredibly easy ganache is!  You seriously just boil heavy cream and pout it over bittersweet chocolate and stir.  And with how delicious this tart is, well, I will be making that ganache again -- and soon!

(Next time however, I will cut the tart into small squares as it is too rich to eat one whole piece in one sitting.)

Recipe from Country Living, September 2012


  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 14 chocolate graham cracker, crushed
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • sea salt
  • 1 cup light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 6 ounces pecan halves, toasted (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Meanwhile, in a small pot over medium-low heat, melt 1 stick butter. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add graham crackers, granulated sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and combine. Press mixture into the bottom and along the sides of an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Bake crust for 10 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and cool, about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, make the caramel: In a medium pot fitted with a candy thermometer, melt remaining butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar, condensed milk, corn syrup, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and stir to combine. Allow caramel to come to a boil; maintain gentle boil, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches 240 degrees F, about 10 minutes. Stir in pecans and vanilla. Pour caramel into tart crust and spread evenly. Set aside to cool, about 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the ganache: Place chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small pot, bring 1 cup heavy cream to a boil and pour over chocolate. Let sit for 30 seconds, then stir until melted. Pour over caramel and spread ganache into a smooth, even layer with a spatula. Refrigerate tart until set, about 1 hour.
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl and using an electric mixer, beat remaining heavy cream until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Once tart is set, remove outer ring of pan. Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving. Serve with dollops of whipped cream.

COST: $10.65    COSt per serving (16 skinny slices): $0.67

Read more: Turtle Candy Tart Recipe - Country Living 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Reverse Bucket List

I had this plan.  I even wrote it down.  You know what I am talking about -- a Summer bucket list.  It went something like this:

  • ride a roller coaster again after a long time
  • lay out on the grass and watch the stars on a warm evening
  • see the big trees
  • go to the county fair
  • and so on...
You want to know a secret?  I didn't check a single thing off that list.  

You know, I was just too busy being in out of state weddings and conventions and doing what needed to be done that I just didn't have time.  And I almost let that get me down.  

But then I came up with the reverse-bucket list.  Instead of making a list of things I wanted to do (and didn't get to), I am making a list of things I got to do, whether they were planned or not.  And this list looks much better --
  • ate Tex-Mex in Houston
  • slept in a cabin with good friends in the Rockies
  • drove through the Napa Valley at midnight with the music turned up and the full moon shining in through the open sun roof
  • enjoyed Cirque du Soleil KA on the Strip in Vegas
  • visited with my brother, finally home from Afghanistan
  • sled down a sand dune -- or attempted to, at least ;)
  • spent a day on the lake with my man, some friends, and a wakeboard
  • ate deep fried pickles at the Rattlesnake Saloon, which is a restaurant in a cave in Alabama
  • sang along with Committed in concert
  • played cards in the park on a sunny afternoon
  • caught up with good friends over breakfast, and left feeling so incredibly blessed
  • read a book on my balcony at The Gaylord Opryland (and enjoyed all its glory) in Nashville
  • touched the water pump where Helen Keller first learned that words have meaning
  • walked along the Ventura coast with my favorite person in the world -- my husband
You know what I am thinking?  This whole reverse list is better than the original. 

Here's to living a life that worth reflecting upon and finding it to be beautiful just the way it is!

(A 'Wednesday Files' Post)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lemon Cheese Cake -- A Taste of the South

As you probably read, I made my way down South last week.  And not down South as in, "I'm going down south [to Southern California]."  That may be what we in the Northern part of this state say when we are headed to Disneyland or to watch the Lakers, but I am talking the real down South.  Like, Alabama and Tennessee.  Country roads, rolling green hills, and some good Southern cookin'.  That's the South I am talking about this week.

I must fess up right away.  I did not actually make this cake.  My good friend Leigh, whom I refer to as my Southern Mama, did.  I just merely ate it.  And enjoyed every bite.  Then I had her daughter help me find plates, a table cloth, and some props and take pictures.

Yes -- I went into someone's house, ate all their food, and then made them help me turn their house into a food-photo studio.  What can I say... that's how I roll.  (Anyone want to invite me over yet?)  Luckily for me, they are always up for anything artistic, so this was a good experience for all of us.

According to Leigh, who is an Alabama native (or a 'bad mama jama from down in Alabama' according to a country song that I like), this cake is also an Alabama native.  It doesn't actually have any cheese in, despite what the name suggests.  Instead it has lemon filling that frosts each layer and the top, making it super lemony -- perfect for summer time!

Recipe from the Gift of Southern Cooking

The Cake -

  • 1 1/4 cup cake flour
  • 1 1/2 t. cream of tartar
  • 3/4 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp.
  • 8 egg whites
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
The Filling - 
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 3 T finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 t. salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Sift flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
  3. Beat the sugar and butter in large mixing bowl, scraping the bottom and sides once or twice, until light and fluffy.  Whisk the egg white until blended but not foamy, then add to the butter in four batches, beating well with each addition.  Add the sifted dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk, and mixing only until well blended after each additions before proceeding to the next.  Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl again, and blend in the vanilla.
  4. Divide the cake batter between four buttered parchment-lined baking pans.  Drop each filled cake pan gently on the kitchen counter to remove any large air pockets.  Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until the cake layers spring back in the center when lightly tapped, or a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer the pans to cooling racks, and let rest for 5 minutes before turning the cake layers onto the racks to cool completely.
  5. Make the filling: Put all of the ingredients into a nonreactive saucepan, and whisk well to blend.  Set over moderate heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the filling thickens and a candy thermometer registers 170F, about 10 minutes.  DO NOT allow the filling to boil or come to a simmer.  Transfer the cooked filling to a bowl and cool to room temperature.
  6. Place one layer on a platter or cake stand and spread with 1/2 cup of the cooled lemon filling.  Tip with a second cake layer and 1/2 cup more of the lemon filling.  Continue stacking and filling this way, using all of the remaining filling to spread over the top layer and sides of the cake.

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