Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pat's Pretty Cookies

I had to post these beautiful cookies. My mother-in-law Pat is known for her fabulous baking skills and has a nack for decorationg these pretty little cookies. She happened to show me pictures of some cookies she had decorated and I was so impressed. They honestly look like art work to me.

Pat made these for her BFF's birthday and I just died over them. I love the shoes!

Pat made these for halloween and I got to see them and they look professional.

I had to share with you these works of art. I love the time and detail that goes into making these gorgeous little cookies. Thanks Pat, for the inspiration.

(Pictures courstesy of Pat Forester)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Red Velvety Yumminess....

It has been forever since I have been able to get in the kitchen and cook, so on Saturday evening I just spent the eveing cooking and baking (my favorite past time). I let Thad decide on the menu and so he decided for the main course he wanted Greek Spaghetti(recipe to come) and Red Velvet Cake for dessert. I had never made Red Velvet Cake and had never really tasted it or not that I can remember, so this was going to be an experience for me.

Red Velvet Cake. I have always been under the impression that it was a Southern recipe, since I had never heard too much about it until I moved to the South. I decided to do some research on it and found out its origin. It actually does not have Southern roots but it came about during World War II when food was rationed and bakers use to use boiled beets to give the cake a better or prettier color and for moisture. There still are some red velvet recipes that call for boiled beets.

Red Velvet Cake was a signature dessert at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City during the 1920s. Then Red Velvet Cake made its revival when the movie "Steel Magnolias" featured Red Velvet Cake when the grooms cake was a red velvet cake in the shape of an armidillo.

I did my resarch and looked at a lot of recipes. I looked at Paula Deen's recipe, several recipes on the Foodnetwork and then decided to go with my mother-in-law's recipe. I know what a good baker she is so I trusted her recipe. It was an easy recipe to assemble and was ohhh so yummy.

Red Velvet Cake

2 1/2 cups cake flower (sifted)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cocoa
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups oil (I did a cup oil and a half cup butter)
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 eggs
1 bottle (1 oz. red food coloring)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecan pieces

Start off by mixing all the dry ingredients together in a seperate boil, making sure the cake flour is sifted. Set aside. I then combined the other ingredients in order. Mix well. Then add the dry ingredients to the other ingredients. Make sure the batter is smooth and pretty.

Then grease and flour three 9" cake rounds (you can also use 8" rounds). Distribute the batter evenly amongst the three cake molds. Bake at 350 degrees, watching closely so that the cake does not over cook, nobody likes a dry cake. My cakes cooked for about 20 minutes but can cook up to 25 minutes. I then place them on a cooling rack. Allow them to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/4 stick butter
1 - 8 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
1 box powder sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup chopped pecans

I was talking my my mother-in-law Pat and she told me that she doubles this recipe and so that is exactly what I did. I am glad I did too because I most likely would have not had enough to cover the entire cake. Making sure the cream cheese is at room temperature, combine the cream cheese, butter, powder sugar and vanilla (I use my Kitchen Aide for this). Mix until smooth and fluffy. Once the ingredients are combined add pecans.

This is a fun cake and would be great any time of the year. I think Thad wanted me to make this cake because it reminds him of Bama's colors. Roll Tide!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Taco Soup

With all this cold weather, it has made me want to stay in and have Thad make one of his famous fires and have some chili. So I was on the hunt for a good but different Chili recipe. I love Paula Deen and even have a monthy subscription to her magazine and you can even ask my husband, I cherish it and read it cover to cover.

So I found Paula's recipe for Taco Soup and it sounded so yummy. I decided to make it for Saturday night dinner and it was a hit. After making it though it was more of a Chili consistancy and not a soup consistancy. But a great recipe....Paula never lets me down.

Taco Soup

2 pounds ground beef
2 cups diced onions
2 (15 1/2-ounce) cans pinto beans
1 (15 1/2-ounce) can pink kidney beans
1 (15 1/4-ounce) can whole kernel corn
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can tomatoes with chiles
2 (4 1/2-ounce) cans diced green chiles (was scared to add both but tasted so good)
1 (4.6-ounce) can black olives, drained and sliced, optional
1/2 cup green olives, sliced, optional
1 (1 1/4-ounce) package taco seasoning mix
1 (1-ounce) package ranch salad dressing mix
Corn chips, for serving
Sour cream, for garnish
Grated cheese, for garnish
Chopped green onions, for garnish
Pickled jalapenos, for garnish

Brown the ground beef and onions in a large skillet and then drain the excess fat. Transfer the browned beef and onions to a large slow cooker or a stockpot. Then start opening cans one by one and adding the beans, corn, tomatoes, green chiles, black olives, green olives, taco seasoning, and ranch dressing mix, and cook in a slow cooker on low for 6 to 8 hours or simmer over low heat for about 1 hour in a pot on the stove. I found that the longer the ingredients have to simmer and marinate the better the taco soup tastes. I got some corn chips and placed them in the bottom of a soup bowl and then poured the soup on top adding some cheese as a tasty garnish. You can also top with sour cream, olives, green onions and jalapenos. It was so yum and made for great left-overs.

This Taco Soup recipe was so easy and made a lot. The Ranch and taco seasoning added a different flavor and gave an average Chili recipe a bit of a twist. This is a must try.

Adapted from Paula Deen (Foodnetwork)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Swedish Pancakes (Les Crepes)

On Sunday night Thad and I got home from being in Demopolis since Saturday. Our friend Gwen and her family were nice enough to feed us while we were there in town. It was yummy, thanks Gwen! But when we got home Thad asked me what we were going to do about supper. As usual, I go through the list of what I could possibly make according to what I have in the refrigerator/pantry. I offered up the idea of Swedish Pancakes or what others would call crepes (in the Nelson family we have always called them Swedish Pancakes). It is funny, I am like a diner, I give Thad menu options and he places an order off the menu. What did he order? Swedish pancake (crepes).

I love this recipe. It was always a treat growing up, when my mom would make these for us. They always made for a yummy breakfast. I remember when my mom would make them, she would usually have to stay at the stove the entire time because you have make one at a time and with four kids and a husband there were a lot of crepes to make and a lot of mouths to feed. So I did the same and made sure Thad and Mike had plenty to eat.

We loved crepes growing up in California and so when we moved to France where they had whole restaurnts dedicated to Crepes called Creperies and where they were the main course and you could almost get anything on them, we felt it was meant to be. My favorite was a ham and cheese crepe. Then for dessert you could get a chocolate crepe with cream on top. Yum.

The recipe is so simple.

Swedish Pancakes (Crepes)

2 cups milk
2 cups flour
2 eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Start off by mixing all the ingredients together using a wisk, wisking all the ingredients together until the batter appears smooth (no bumps). Rub some butter into the bottom of a small non-stick fry pan (my mom takes a cube of butter and peels away some of the wrapping and rubs it on the pan really quick), pour 1/4 cup batter onto the fry pan, move the batter around the pan until the batter covers the bottom of the fry pan (making a circle). Cooking over medium heat let the bottom side cook until it is barely brown (simply lift up the edges and check after about a minute, just like pancakes). Once slightly browned, turn over. The key here is to not over cook them. If you cook them too long they will become stiff and too hard to roll up. Simply repeat this process, making sure to butter the pan after each crepe is made. This recipes make about 15 crepes.

For toppings, I always use butter and then my favorite is cinnamon and sugar. You can also do butter and jam or some fresh fruit with whipping cream on top and make it more of a dessert. Then roll them up and eat. Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Nelson Family Cookbook

I am always calling my mom for recipes, recipes that she has made that I love. She is always quick to email them to me or tell me them over the phone. She is a master seasoner who can season anything to perfection. She makes EVERYTHING from scratch and her recipes are tried and true and a guaranteed to be good. She is not scared to take on new more complicated techniques or recipes. She loves to can her vegetables and fruits from her gardens and can whip up a fresh salad from her garden and throw together a vinigrette based salad dressing in no time.

Living in France my mom made it a personal mission of hers to try the foods of the land. She took french cooking classes and tried all their various cheeses. She explored the open aired markets and loved to try little quaint restaurants. When we first moved there my mom was fearless. She did not know the land nor the language and yet she would pile us all into the van and off we would go. When we would get lost and say "mom are we lost?", she would say "no, we are just sight-seeing". And after living in France our taste buds were never the same. We loved butter, fresh meats, breads and cheeses and learned what REAL chocolate tates like.
So one day on the phone my mom told me she was making a Valentines Day present for me (and all the kids) and that I would love it. I came home one day and there was a package on the porch. Inside was a sweet letter stating that she loved that I love to cook and that cooking is a Blackwelder (my mom's maiden name) traditon starting with my great grandma Brozovich who came to America from Croatia. The cookbook had family pictures of good food and good memories on the front and a picture of my gorgeous mom on the back.
Love this picture on my nephew Max cooking with Grandma Peggy!

These recipes are a treasure to me and are priceless. I love knowing that I now have all the recipes I love so much. Thanks momma. I can't wait to get cookin'!

You can visit my mom's blog to read all about her Lavendar fields and apple orchard and read some of her yummy recipes right her at: http://thepurpleapple-lavender.blogspot.com/

Monday, March 8, 2010

Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies

Calling all cookie lovers. This recipe is sure to be a hit. I originally found this recipe on my friend and old roommate's cooking website called Two Peas and Their Pod. I read the recipe and knew that I had to try it and when I did they were de-lish and the dough was exceptionally good also. These are Thad's second favorite cookies (the first being Million Dollar Cookies). The butterscotch really dresses up a basic oatmeal recipe and gives it a rich taste, plus my other secret weapon in this recipe is extra cinnamon.

Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I like to double or triple that)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups quick-cooking oats
1 package of butterscotch chips (I use Nestle Toll house)

Heat oven to 375°F. Beat butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in large bowl until well blended (or I use my kitchen Aide but be careful to not over mix). Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Once mixed, gradually add dry ingredients to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in oats and butterscotch chips, once this is completed take a big heaping spoonful and eat it, that is by far my favorite part of this recipe. I also make sure to deliver a spoon full to my hubby because he loves the dough also.

Once the taste testing portion of the cookie making is completed, drop heaping spoon fulls on to a cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes (in my oven it takes about 8.5 minutes)watching them closely so that they do not over cook. I always try to rotate the cookie sheet half-way through the baking time to make sure they are cooked and browned evenly. Cool slightly on the cookie sheet to allow them to set and then remove them from cookie sheet and place on a cooling rack.

Thad likes his slightly warm with a small glass of milk. This a great oatmeal cookie with a rich twist, you will want to keep this recipe on hand to make over and over and over again!

Yields 4 dozen cookies

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rosle Garlic Press

I worked at Williams-Sonoma when I was in college for about 7 months. It was fun to shop and work at the same time and that great discount was also a huge plus. My mom also worked there for a while and one of our most favorite kitchen tools from Williams-Sonoma is the Rosle Garlic Press. It is stainless steel, heavy and sturdy. It makes it so that the actual touching of the garlic is minimal to almost not at all. It is dishwasher safe and is their Cadillac of Garlic presses. It is a bit pricey at $39 but you will not regret the purchase for one minute and using garlic for a recipe will be as quick and easy as ever.

(I have had mine for over 3 years and it looks new, so you pay for the quality and will have it as a cooking tool forever......or atleast for a very long time)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Classic Meatloaf

Meatloaf is one of those foods that is an american staple and also a dish that I never crave but when I have it, it is comforting and yummy. Growing up my mom would make it for us kids and her meat loaf was really good. Since being married and busy with life, I am always looking for recipes that I can throw into my crockpot or make ahead of time. I had tried several meatloaf recipes but was always left wanting more. They just did not do it for me. One day as I was Food Blog surfing, which is my favorite past time, I stumbled upon this recipe at www.marthastewart.com She has a section called "Comfort Foods" and there lied a meatloaf recipe.

Since Thad and I have to travel to Demopolis on Sundays, I wanted something that was easy to transport and heat up at the church since we are typically there all day. So I made this meatloaf recipe the night before, crossing my fingers that it was good. As it cooked, a smell filled the house and Thad commented that the house smelt like Sunday to him. There was a delicious smell coming out of that oven and I knew that if it tasted as good as it smelt then we had found a winner.

We had it the next day for Sunday lunch and my instincts were correct, this recipe so yum. It's moist and juicy and full of flavor.

3 slices white sandwich bread
1/3 cup whole milk
1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 medium onion, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg
1/2 cup ketchup
Coarse salt and ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper and set aside. Place bread in food processor pulse or chop until the bread is in fine crumbs. Transfer the bread to a small bowl; stir in milk. Set aside, about 10minutes, stirring occasionally. For me the bread absorbed the milk really quickly so there was not too much to stir, I just made sure the bread and milk were well blended.

Next in a large bowl, combine beef/pork (I used 2 lbs. of beef chuck and no pork because that was what I had on hand), onion, garlic, egg, 1/4 cup ketchup, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add bread-milk mixture, and mix very gently with a fork, be sure not to stir too much.

Place meat mixture on prepared baking sheet, and form into a loaf about 9 inches long and 4 to 5 inches wide.

Bake, brushing twice with remaining 1/4 cup ketchup during baking. The recipe said to cook 45 to 55 minutes but my oven took about ten minutes longer to cook but I have an ancient or "vintage" oven. So I would say to watch it closely towards the end of the cooking time to make sure there is not pick meat and that you do not over cook it.

Very quick and easy recipe and oh so yummy! Thanks Martha for a fab Meat Loaf recipe.

Serves 6-8

Adapted from Martha Stewart