Saturday, March 30, 2013

Hummingbird Cake

Southern Living published the first Hummingbird Cake recipe in 1978 and it's been a southern staple ever since. The fruit makes this cake super-moist and we all know how awesome cream cheese icing is! This cake isn't super sweet either. In fact, I may have eaten it for breakfast...

My take is a little less time-intensive than some versions of the recipe but just as delicious (ask my co-workers who sampled it this week!). I've also substituted Splenda for sugar and added nutmeg for an extra kick so give it a try and see what you think. 

What You'll Need:
3 cups all-purpose flour 
1 cup Splenda for baking
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3 medium bananas, diced
3 large eggs
1 cup pecans, toasted
1 cup vegetable oil 
8 ounces crushed pineapple, undrained
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

1 package instant vanilla pudding 
2 cups milk

16 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
4 tablespoons milk

What to Do:
Mix the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add the fruit, eggs, oil and vanilla. You can add the pecans to the cake mix or save them to sprinkle over the top of the cake. Mix everything until just incorporated. 

Generously coat four 8-inch cake pans or two 13x9 in sheet pans with Crisco (yes, you have to use Crisco) and flour. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes until your utensil of choice comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes in the pan and then completely on a rack. Refrigerate the cake at least 2 hours before assembling to keep it from crumbling when you frost it (I promise you'll thank me).

Meanwhile, make the pudding according to the instructions on the box and chill. Mix the icing ingredients adding milk to thin it out to your liking. Chill the frosting until about 30 minutes before you use it to let it soften.

To assemble, layer pudding between cake. Be careful not to add too much or it will squish out when you ice it! If you're using 13X9 pans, you can cut each layer in half to make a larger 4-layer cake OR you can make two small cakes like I did. Each pan will make a mini 4-layered cake.  Frost cake with two, thin layers, refrigerating in between layers. Top with pecans if you'd like. 

This is a great dessert to make ahead of time and assemble just before serving. And perfect for Easter or Mother's day. 

This recipe is dedicated to my loving grandmother, Sarah, who loved the Spring and adored hummingbirds. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Maple Bacon Brussels Sprouts

Yep, Brussel sprouts. Now before you hyperventilate at the thought of serving these to people you actually care about, take a deep breath and grab some bacon.

There. Feeling better? Just like greens, brussels sprouts really are very good if you know how to cook them. Add some bacon, sweet onions and a bit of maple syrup and you have a side dish just about anyone will eat. I promise.

What You'll Need
1 lb brussels sprouts, halved
1 small sweet onion, diced
4-5 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Vegetable stock

What to Do
Simmer brussels sprouts in vegetable stock until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, sautee bacon until it starts to brown. Add onion. Drain brussels sprouts and add to the bacon and onions along with the maple syrup. Brown sugar would also work well here. The extra sugar helps caramelize the brussels sprouts without over cooking them. When the sprouts are a nice golden brown, they're ready to serve. Add a dash of pepper to cut the sweetness and dig in. Come on, you know you want to at least try this recipe now :)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Super Juicy BBQ Chicken

Since we dropped cable last summer, I've been getting my cooking show fix from PBS.  America's Test Kitchen is a particular fave. This past weekend, the boy and I took advantage of the warm, sunny weather <insert jealously here> and tried their smoking technique. It makes awesomely juicy chicken like you wouldn't believe. Here's our take.

What You'll Need:
1.5 pounds skinless chicken pieces
4 tablespoons dijon mustard
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cloves garlic
Teaspoon hot sauce

What to Do:
Mix the last 6 ingredients together in a bowl for a BBQ-inspired marinade. Pour over chicken and let sit in the fridge for an hour. Take chicken out of the fridge 20 minutes before cooking. 

In the mean time, place a disposable aluminum pan with 2 cups water on one side of the grill. Fill a chimney starter with charcoal and light. Once the charcoal starts to smolder, bank the pile on the other side of the grill, away from the water. For added smokiness, top charcoal with soaked wood chips.

Replace the grill grate and place chicken over the water, away from the fire. Cover and cook for about an hour and a half, turning half way through. Chicken should be about 160 degrees with a meat thermometer. I promise this is worth the wait! 

Sorry there are no pictures of the actual grilling process. I got too caught up in the nice weather! But you do get a glimpse of our new countertops :) 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tennessee Caviar

This dish has become a staple for southern entertainers. Or maybe I just know a lot of people who love to make it. Either way, it's pretty awesome. I grew up eating black eyed peas and this is definitely one of my favorite ways to jazz them up. Enough chit- chat. Here's my take:

What You'll Need:
3 cups cooked black eyed peas
1 cup corn
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 small sweet onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon hot sauce (or more!)
Salt and pepper

What to Do:
Mix everything together. Ta da! Fresh ingredients really give this dish a kick but, in a pinch, canned veggies work just fine. Serve as a dip with tortilla chips or as a side for ham or fried fish. Apparently, if you replace black eyed peas with black beans, it's Texas caviar. So pick your favorite state (or bean) and eat up!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Smoked Gouda Dip

I love cheese. Like really love it. Like I could eat it for every meal. Every day. Maybe that explains my love handles :) While smoked gouda is pretty common, it's definitely one of my faves. So when we had smoked gouda dip over the weekend, I knew I had to make my own version. Similar to pimento cheese, this is great on crispy crackers or pita points. 

What You'll Need:
2 cups shredded smoked gouda
1/2 red onion, minced 
1/3 cup toasted walnut pieces
2 tablespoons mayo
Red pepper, cumin, smoked paprika

What to Do:
Mix all of the ingredients together and add a few shakes of the spices to taste. It doesn't get any easier than that! If you're a cheese-fiend like me, you'll want to lick the plate when your done.