Monday, December 31, 2012

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

Christmas lasts a solid week in our family. We usually have multiple Christmases with different parts of the family. Which gives me an excuse to do some post-holiday baking. Inspired by Starbucks and my sister-in-law's baking, I decided to make peppermint mocha cupcakes for Christmas #2 over the weekend.

What You'll Need:
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
16 fluid ounces chocolate syrup
1 tablespoon peppermint extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
1 cup flour

1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

What to Do:
To make the cupcakes, cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs, syrup, extract and coffee. Fold in flour until just mixed. Bake at 325 until just set, about 25-30 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool completely in the pan. Pour heated heavy cream over chocolate and coffee. Mix until glossy. Core cupcakes and pour ganache into middles. 

Once the ganache is set, whip cream until stiff peaks form. Whip cream cheese, sugar and peppermint until smooth. Fold in whipped cream. Frost cupcakes and add cute garnish. I found these adorable toppers from Meri Meri on sale after Christmas.

These are super rich. Even without the frosting. A perfect way to finish off your over-stuffed holiday! Happy New Year! 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Ice Cream Battered French Toast

I love breakfast. And I love ice cream. This morning's recipe combines the best of both worlds. With only 3 main ingredients, you too can make decadent french toast without the fuss. 

What You'll Need
1 small loaf french or cuban bread, sliced
2 large scoops vanilla ice cream, melted
3 large eggs
Butter for frying
Cinnamon, nutmeg + powered sugar to taste
Maple syrup

What to Do
Arrange your sliced bread in a large baking dish. Stale bread soaks up the batter best. Mix the melted ice cream and eggs and pour over bread. Allow the bread to soak for at least an hour (or overnight if you really have it together!). 

Fry soaked bread in butter until golden brown. Dust with cinnamon, nutmeg and powdered sugar. Douse with maple syrup. Personally, I like frying some bananas to serve over warm french toast. 

Merry Christmas Eve!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tea Time with Wondermade

I never really think about marshmallows. The spongy rounds you buy at the store are nice, but not really inspiring. Until now. Wondermade, a kickstarter company based out of Orlando, FL, makes all-natural marshmallows in amazing flavor-combinations. 

Their seasonal offerings include peppermint, bourbon, gingerbread and pumpkin pie. I received a pack of honey pear marshmallows as part of a Christmas gift and wondered what to do with these little squares (other than eat them out of the box!).

So I decided to sweeten my cup of green tea with a few. This is pretty much my favorite way to drink tea now. I can see Her Majesty rolling her eyes at me now...

I think these would make amazing s'mores with white chocolate + Biscoff cookies too. Cherio! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Limoncello: Dessert's Served

Last month I tried my hand at making Limoncello. And I have to say, it turned out pretty delicious. I might cut down on the sugar a bit but would definitely recommend the recipe. I tried a glass with homemade sugar cookies (thanks Mom!) and these raspberry thumbprints

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hashbrown Casserole

It's been a crazy week shopping, wrapping, baking, movie-watching and visiting with friends. With so much Christmasing going on, I needed something easy and delicious to kickstart the weekend. Enter hashbrown casserole. 

I've took a few liberties with a recipe from a co-worker and here's how it turned out (thanks Meredith!). This would be perfect for Christmas brunch. Or to cure your hangover. Whichever. 

What You'll Need:
1 32 oz bag frozen shredded hash browns
1 can cream of chicken soup
8 oz sour cream
1 onion, chopped
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 lb sausage (spicy preferred)
salt and pepper to taste

What to Do:
Cook the sausage and onions. Combine the hasbrowns, soup and sour cream. Sprinkle with cheese and dot with butter. Bake at 350 until bubbly throughout and crispy on top (about 30-40 minutes). You can also toss everything into the crock pot on low for 3-4 hours. 
For a southwestern flavor, you could substitute pepper jack for cheddar and add chopped bell pepper and green chillies. 

Eat up!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Soda City Market Finds

The boy and I braved the mist and fog yesterday to forage at our local farmer's market. I thought I'd share some of our loot from City Roots Farm and Anson Mills

We also picked up some shrimp from Beaufort, but with the heads on, they weren't pretty to photograph! Check out all of the delicious offerings at Soda City Market online. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Three-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

It's cookie baking season. Yay! I love a good excuse to eat  make cookies for friends and family. Most people have probably made peanut butter cookies with candy in the middle for Christmas and our family is no exception. This is my favorite recipe because it only calls for 3 ingredients. For real.

My cousin taught me this recipe when I was little. In fact, it's just about the only recipe I can actually remember off-hand. We used to bake these in our grandmother's kitchen. I thought she was so cool because she could bake. 

So onto the cookies. 

What You'll Need:
1 cup peanut butter (I prefer the natural kind- less of a sugar coma that way)
1 cup sugar
1 egg

Note: This recipe make about 15 cookies so I usually double it :)

What to Do:
Combine all 3 ingredients in a bowl. Measuring peanut butter is super messy so you can eye-ball it. Roll the dough into balls (about 1-1.5 inches in diameter). Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.  Your balls will expand, but not by much.

I like to place a mini Reece's peanut butter cup in the middle of each one. Kisses work well too. You'll notice the cookies crack a bit when you place the candy in the middle. Be gentle or you'll break them in half. And then you might have to eat them because they are "broken." You'll also want to be sure to cool the cookies for 5-10 minutes before you insert said candy. Otherwise they melt. Ok, so maybe that's not a bad thing either... Eat up! 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Rusty Gold

Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Clove. All of the flavors that remind me of the Christmas season bottled with a hint of fizz. Some friends introduced us to Windy Hill's Rusty Gold hard apple cider. Its spicy, not-too-sweet taste is a perfect compliment savory dishes.

Not only is Rusty Gold delicious but Windy Hill grows their own apples and ferments their cider in nearby York, SC. The Windy Hill cider collection also features ginger, strawberry and peach-infused ciders. Sip one on its own or check out their cider mixology suggestions for a unique holiday drink. Cheers!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Weekend at Lake Rabun

I grew up going to the mountains in northeast Georgia. My grandfather built a cabin on Lake Burton when my dad and his brothers were young and the family has spent summer holidays there ever since. So the mountains seemed like a fitting place for everyone to get together for my parent's 40th wedding anniversary.

Since our place isn't winterized, we stayed on near-by Lake Rabun at the Lake Rabun Hotel for the weekend. The leaves were changing and the weather was simply perfect.

Rustic and homey, the hotel's cottage, where most of the family stayed, came complete with dried okra decorations and delicious peanut butter cookies in the afternoon.
The Hotel's award-winning chef, Jamie Allred, cooks up a mean breakfast each morning for guests using local ingredients. I'm still drooling over the creamy, stone-ground grits and the awesomely thick bacon.

Some of the featured farms Allred works with to create his delicious dishes include:
Chattooga Belle Farms
Flat Creek Farm & Dairy
Gibson Farms
Leah Lake Farms
Ladybug Farms
LoganBerry Heritage Farm
Osage Farms
Springer Mountain Farms

You can also find local mountain produce at the Simply Homegrown Market in Clayton during the warmer months. If you're ever near North Georgia, I highly recommend stopping by the Lake Rabun Hotel for a bite!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Chocolate Espresso Shortbread

Southerners love butter. It's just a fact. We pretend to be healthy but every southern cook knows, if you want something to taste good, you have to use the real thing. Some people swear they can't taste the difference between butter and so-called substitutes. Then again, some people can't tell Coke from Pepsi ;)

Shortbread requires real butter. And lots of it! It's my go-to cookie because it's so versatile. You can add just about any flavor or topping to this buttery, no-too-sweet dessert.

My go-to basic shortbread recipe is similar to Ina Garten's.  

What You'll Need:
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup Sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter
Pinch of salt
Dash of almond extract (Vanilla works too)

What to Do:
Use a stand mixer to form the dough, creaming the butter and sugar before adding the extract and flour. You can roll the dough out and cut it into fun shapes or you can spread it in a 8x8 pan. If you're cutting out shapes, you'll want to chill the dough first. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

The best part, though, is the topping. I melted dark chocolate and spread it over my cooled shortbread. I dusted the chocolate-coating with cinnamon and espresso powder and cut the shortbread into rectangles for easy snacking. You could also top them with chopped, toasted pecans or hazelnuts.

Be warned. These are highly addictive. You might need to double the recipe.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ho Cakes Re-imagined

Fried cornmeal and buttermilk. What's not to love? In the south, we fry corn every way you can imagine. Well, almost. In an attempt to be a bit more sustainable, the boy and I have turned Meatless Monday into meatless Tuesday and Thursday. I'm constantly scouring my recipe books for new dishes that don't incorporate meat. I'm a huge fan of black beans, so I thought I'd combine them into a classic southern dish.


The result? Black bean and corn ho cakes. Here's the recipe:

What You'll Need:
2 cans black beans, drained
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 small (8.75 oz) can sweet corn, drained
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or bacon grease
1 large egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and cumin, to taste
Oil for frying

What to Do:
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Batter should roll slowly off your spoon. Add buttermilk if too thick. For each cake, drop 2 heaping tablespoons of batter into hot oil. Cook cakes over medium-high heat about 4 minutes per side or until brown and crispy. 

Try serving them over a bed of greens or rice and a dollop of sour cream. Eat up!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Garden & Gun's Made in the South Awards

If you don't subscribe to Garden and Gun magazine, I highly recommend it. It's thoughtful, eye-catching pages appreciate southern culture in a whole new way. Every year they honor southern artisans with their Made in the South Awards. As you might guess, I'm especially excited to see their food picks.


You can check out the food category winner, Nature's Harmony Farm, here. The runner's up are also pretty awesome. Honeysuckle gelato anyone?



(Photos from Garden and Gun)

Holiday Baking: Quick and Easy

This is totally cheating. I'm talking semi-homemade, from a box, didn't have to think about the recipe kind of cheating.  It's almost embarrassing to put this on a food blog. But these little babies are so good I had to share. 


Here's the secret: Trader Joe's Deep, Dark Gingerbread Cake and Baking Mix. Make according to the box directions and add mini dark chocolate chips. Bake in a mini muffin tin and you have 24 adorable holiday treats in less than 30 minutes. 

Of course, you could always use your favorite gingerbread cake recipe but if you need a quick gingerbread fix, I highly recommend cheating. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Sour. Tangy. Lip-puckering good. I have loved lemons and all things sour since I was a little kid. I used to suck on the lemons from my parent’s sweet tea (although my dentist now tells me this probably wasn’t good for my teeth!). 

Given my life-long lemon obsession, I’ve been dying to make my own Limoncello. For those of you not familiar, Limoncello is a traditional Italian spirit made by infusing grain alcohol with lemon zest and mixing it with simple syrup. I’m not italian, but ever since I tried Limoncello in Italy while in college, I can’t seem to get enough of the stuff. 

Fortunately, Limoncello is pretty easy to make, although it does take a while. Zest 10 lemons. Funnel zest into a clean bottle. Pour in 750 ml of vodka or Everclear. Steep at least a month at room temperature, shaking gently every day. Add simple syrup to taste (about 4 cups). Steep for at least two more weeks. Chill well before serving.

A few tips. Avoid zesting the pith (the white part). It's bitter and will make your Limoncello tatse funky. Speaking of zesting, pick firm lemons and use a good zester. Trust me. I now have hand cramps from my old dull one. Finally, use a spirit with high alcohol content. The higher the proof, the less alcohol and more lemon you'll taste.

Assuming this batch turns out well, I'm planning on decanting my Limoncello into smaller bottles for Christmas gifts. Check back in December to see how it tuns out!

Thanksgiving Inspiration

I'm in full Thanksgiving mode. I dream about pumpkin cheesecake. I wake up smelling turkey. I've been agonizing over table decor since September. Ever since we moved into our new house, we've been hosting this fabulous holiday. And I do love it. Especially the part where we don't have to get up off the couch to drive home after gorging. 

I've been scouring the web for some good Turkey Day inspiration and thought I'd share. 

(Clockwise from top left: Tablescape, Cranberries, Rolls, Sweet Potatoes, Chalkboard, Roasting Glaze, Oysters)

Monday, November 12, 2012

In Season: Butternut Squash

Our heater died about  3 weeks ago. And we’ve been too cheap to replace it . What’s a little cold right? Wrong. Now that it’s getting down in the 30’s and 40’s at night we’re cold. Like sweatshirts in bed cold. Ask the dog. It’s so cold even she sleeps in the bed with us now.

We finally broke down and called someone but it will be at least a week before we have a new system. So I’ve been using every excuse to cook since our gas stove heats up the kitchen. 

My favorite hot meal to make in the fall is stuffed butternut squash. Earthy, nutty and, of course, hot!.

What You'll Need:1 butternut squash, halved and seeded
3/4 lb hot sausage
1 small bell pepper
1 small Vidalia onion
2 cups stuffing, prepared
1/4 cup pecans, toasted
Salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder, nutmeg

What to Do:
Place squash halves cut side down on an oiled baking sheet. Roast squash at 350 degrees for about an hour or until tender.  While squash is cooking, brown sausage. Reserve fat and use it to saute the peppers and onions until the onions are clear. Combine sausage, vegetables, stuffing and nuts in a large bowl. Season to taste. Spoon into squash halves.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fall Foraging

I love Fall. The golden leaves. The argyle sweaters. The smell of bonfires. And especially the earthy harvest flavors. The seminary down the street from us has pecan trees, which, if you can beat the squirrels to them, drop loads of delicious nuts this time of year.

The Bear and I spent a good while cracking and shelling a bag of pecans I collected the other week. The sweet, buttery insides are perfect right out the shell and smell wonderful when toasted. 

These are going in a stuffing for butternut squash. I'll post the recipe soon :)