Monday, February 22, 2010

Homemade Chocolate Sauce

One thing the South has that I love are great consignment shops. Here in Tuscaloosa there are several shops that are fun to visit but my favorite Consignment shop is called Twice As Nice. I love this place and the other day I found these precious little dessert dishes. I had to have them. And as soon as I bought them I visualized two pretty scoops of vanilla ice cream or some fresh sorbet in them. I had been wanting to make a homemade chocolate sauce, so buying these dishes gave me a great excuse.

I went into my beloved cookbook, "Joy of Cooking" and found this recipe. It was quick and easy but delicious. It is the perfect dessert to whip up last minute but is an impressive homemade treat. Also this chocolate sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Chocolate Sauce

1/2 cup light cream or 1/4 cup heavy cream plus 1/4 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla

I started off by chopping up the chocolate first because once you get going this recipe moves pretty fast so it is best to have it all out and ready to go. You can chop up your chocolate in a food processor or I got out a cutting board and a good knife and chopped the chocolate into very fine pieces. I used semi-sweet baking chocolate that comes in an 8 oz. package or you can use some ghirardelli chocolate. I say the finer the chocolate the better the taste.

Combine the creams/milk, sugar and butter in a heavy sauce pan. Stirring constantly and keeping a close eye on it, bring it to a full rolling boil. Remove the sauce from the heat and then add your finely chopped chocolate. Continuing to stir constantly until all the chocolate is melted and the sauce has a smooth texture (no lumps). Set the mixture aside for one minute and then add your vanilla. Once again, stir until mixed well and the texture is smooth and velvety.

As a side note, when I was making this I wanted the sauce to be a little thinner so that it made a good chocolate sauce for ice cream, so I added a couple more tablespoons of cream and was pleased with the texture.

Thad gave this Chocolate Sauce a Thad rating of 9.5, so it is worth your time to try it out.

Bon Appetit!

Adapted from Joy of Cooking

Garlic Lemon Chicken Breast

About six months ago I was feeding some missionaries from our church. My mother-in-law had given us chicken breasts with the bone and skin still on them. I was not sure how to cook them or what to dress them with and after talking to my mom she gave me a great recipe that she uses. I loved this recipe because it made the chicken so moist and flavorful. The Lemon, onions and paprika gave the chicken a kick and were a great blend. The chicken was a hit and I knew I had to keep this one in my "must make again" file.


2 tablespoons grated lemon rind (fresh)
4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika
4 chicken breasts with or without the bone
olive oil
salt, pepper, garlic powder (for sprinkling)
4 sprigs Italian parsley
4 onion slices (sliced in thick rings)
heavy duty aluminum foil

Cut 4 rectangles of heavy duty aluminum foil, each about the size of 1/2 a standard cookie sheet. Combine first 5 ingredients (this can also be done in a blender).

Spray (or brush) the 4 large rectangles of aluminum foil with olive oil. Place chicken in center; brush with lemon/garlic mixture, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and lightly dust with garlic powder.

Place a slice of onion and a sprig of parsley over each. Fold up aluminum into a loose, square packet and crimp edges tightly to seal well. Place in a shallow baking dish or on the grill.

Bake at 350°F for about 50-60 minutes (this depends on the size of each chicken piece).

yields: 4 Servings.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Valentines Day Feast

For Valentines Day my mom had my siblings and their families over for a Valentines Day feast. Here are some pictures of their scrumptuous meal on my mom's blog. And yes I am bragging about my mom's gift of cooking. Just seeing the pictures makes me crave one of my mom's Sunday dinners!

Here is my mom's blog, check out the pics:


Friday, February 12, 2010

Bradford Sugar Cookies

When we think of Valentines Day we think of a romantic dinner with that special someone but growing up it was a special day for us as kids too. My mom would make the day be special treat for us. She would make a special meal and set the table with her nicest dishes and present us each with a little gift. I feel like because she made it such a special day for us as kids I have always loved the holiday. Another thing I think of when I think of Valentines Day is sugar cookies, pink heart shaped sugar cookies to be exact. So this year I decided that was exactly what I was going to make to get into the lovey dovey mood.

This recipe is a Nelson family favorite. My mom got this recipe from one of her good friends in college, Colleen Bradford (it was Colleen's mom's recipe). My mom has used this recipe since I can remember. This cookie is soft, light and rich. And for the frosting I use my mom's signature frosting but instead of making it with milk I make it with buttermilk for a richer taste.

Bradford's Sugar Cookies

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder

My mom usually doubles or triples this recipe so you can measure accordingly. I start off by mixing the sugar with the shortening. Add one egg at a time. Mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture. Mix until completely blended. I like to put the dough in the fridge to chill for about 30 minutes or more.

I clear some counter space and place flour on the counter. I then take a fourth of the dough and roll it out into a roundish square and make sure the dough is about a half inch thick. The thicker the cookies the better, so keep the dough thick. Once rolled out you can then use cookie cutters and make the cookies into any shape you desire. If you don't have cookie cutters, you can use the rim of a small glass and make sugar cookie rounds.

Once the shapes are cut out, place them on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 8 to 10 minutes. The key to a perfect sugar cookie is its softness, so you need to watch the sugar cookies closely. I always rotate the sugar cookies half-way through their bake time to make sure the cookie evenly cooks. I cook my cookies for just under 8 minutes to make sure they are soft.

Let cookies cool on a cooling rack and then once cooled top them with yummy icing. The icing recipe I use is my mom's fabulous homemade icing recipe but she taught me a little trick, when you happened to have buttermilk in the refrigerator, instead of making the icing with milk, substitute the milk with buttermilk. It will make for a richer taste. Here is the icing recipe.

Peggles Vanilla Frosting

1/3 cup butter
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk (or buttermilk)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (I add a tad more)

Whip together all the ingredients. If the frosting seems too thick or heavy add a couple tablespoons milk until it is nice and fluffy consistency.

So to get yourself into the Valentines Day spirit make some homemade sugar cookies with homemade frosting for your valentines. It will become a great V-Day tradition.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Gift From the hubby.....

I love to surf food blogs and read recipes and in doing so sometimes I find items that I never knew I needed or wanted but must have. In December I sent Thad a link to Martha Stewart's new cookbook "Martha Stewart's Cookies". I love to bake and I love to make cookies and what makes it perfect is that Thad loves cookies too and loves to be a taste tester (he is so selfless, willing to donate himself to the cause). I saw this cookbook on my favorite food website "Two Peas and Their Pod" http://twopeasandtheirpod.com/ and Martha's cookie cookbook came highly recommended. I needed to have it.

So I sent the link to Thad, not expecting it right then and then there but I like to give him ideas and make shopping easy on him. About two weeks later I came home and found a box on the car port. That night Thad let me open the box and what was inside? "Martha Stewart's Cookies"! The cookbook has your basics like oatmeal cookies and chocolate chip cookies but then also features more specialty cookies like Lime Meltaways, Carrot Cake Cookies and Peppermint Meringue Sandwiches with Chocolate Filling. I am so excited to try all the recipes and discover some new family favorites.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bb is for Banana Bread

Banana bread recipes are like chocolate chip recipes, everyone has one and everyone thinks theirs is the best. Banana bread is also a feel good food, to be made on a rainy or cold night, when you want something cozy and homemade to nibble on. Since I have been a little girl I have used the same recipe for Banana bread. My recipe comes from a little kids ABC Cookbook called "Alpha-Bakery" published by Gold Medal Flour. The copyright is 1987 so it 20 years old. We inherited the cookbook from friends who were moving when we lived in Paris, France. It is a simple but very tasty recipe and therefore I want to share my favorite banana bread recipe, which I think is the best with ya'll.

ABC Banana Bread

3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (3 large)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk (my addition to give the bread more moisture)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I use pecans or walnuts)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon (my addition, I love cinnamon)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 325 and grease a loaf pan with shortening, set aside. Mix sugar, bananas, oil, milk and eggs in a large bowl or I use my kitchen aid and put it on the medium setting. Mix well, scraping down the sides occasionally. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Once well blended pour into the already greased loaf pan. Place the loaf pan in the center of the oven and let cook for 60-70 minutes. I start checking the bread around 55 minutes and I usually use a butter knife and if it comes out clean then I know it is ready. You can also use a toothpick for this purpose.

Once out of the oven, I take a butter knife and sweep all the sides of the loaf pan to loosen the sides and make for a clean and easy release. I then turn over the loaf pan, emptying the bread onto a cooling wrack, then letting it cool right side up. Once out of the oven you can let it cool completely and then serve or Thad likes his fresh out of the oven, with some butter smeared on top and a small glass of milk. Just a suggestion. Enjoy!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Million Dollar Cookies (named by Thad)

I work at a bank where things can get slow. When this happens, which is often and I want to make the time go by a little faster, I browse food blogs and the Foodnetwork for new recipes. I love to just read the recipes and see what ingredients the authors use. Enjoying cooking and baking is something I have discovered about myself recently. When I was single, I was always grabbing food to go or eating out with friends. It was never fun to cook for one. Another reason I love to cook is because of my mom. She has always been a great cook and has been known in the land for her cooking abilities. She is an adventurous cook, who is always trying new recipes and uses no boxed ingredients (i.e. brownie mixes, cake mixes, etc.), everything is homemade. When she was a little girl she often times had to cook for herself, so she has had many years to perfect the art of cooking. I have often described the way my mom showed and shows us love is through her food she makes us and so I aspire to be half the cook my mom is!

Thad loves it when I bake. He is my best taste tester and critic. He asks me to make this recipe at least every couple of weeks and swears these are the best chocolate chip cookies he has ever had. It is a simple recipe but so good. I love this recipe because of the tecture of the cookie. It is a fluffy and dense cookie and I like to add coconut and pecans to give the cookie an even richer taste.

Million Dollar Cookies (Chocolate Chip Cookies)

¾ cup white sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup butter (1 1/2 cubes)
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ½ cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
6 oz. pecans
Fresh coconut to taste (I do 1/2 cup)

Cream butter with sugars, preferably with a fork. I try to have the butter at room temperature for a better consistency in the cookie. Add egg. Combine soda, salt and flour; add to sugar mixture along with vanilla. Mix in pecans and chocolate and roughly a half cup of fresh coconut to the mixture, dough will be a little dry. Press into patties ¾ inch thick, the bigger you make them the better. Bake at 375 for 12-13 minutes. Half-way through the baking time, I rotate the cookie sheet so that they are evenly brown. Don’t over cook, I feel the key to a good cookie is how it is baked, so watch them closely! (My mom likes making them on a baking stone).

These are sure to be a delight and household favorite and hard to eat just one, so dieters beware. Enjoy!