Wednesday, August 31, 2011

.blackberry cobbler.

summers are made for watching fireflies glow, stealing naps under a fan, reading books that make you laugh and eating cobbler. my friend, scrimp, had been talking about a fresh cobbler and i usually assume any mention of a baked good in my presence is a personal call for me to get busy in the kitchen.

when i asked her what her favorite cobbler was she told me she liked both peach and blackberry. i'd made peach bars and peach cake, but had never made a blackberry focused sweet. so, i knew which way i had to lean and set out to find my berries and a round-up of other ingredients.

working with the berries was a playground for the senses because of their rich hues. there was a constant struggle between wanting to savor them with my eyes or with my tongue. my tongue usually won.

to tell you the truth, i was a little rocky on the whole cobbler concept. i knew a cobblestone street was part of it's name derivation, but that still didn't tell me much about this pie concept with a twist. after some research, i realized that there is no definitive answer. what one considers a cobbler varies and it was my choice to travel down the cobbled road i desired.

i went for the type of cobbler that had to be served with a big spoon and figured that was a safe detour from an actual pie. all the berries were dolled up and put into the bottom of the dish and then the prepared pie-like dough was torn and clumped across the top of the berries. the cobbled look helps explain the dish's name.

before putting it in the awaiting oven, i sprinkled sugar all over the top to encourage a glistening appeal. when it was time to remove the cobbler. i couldn't wait to see how it looked. the berries had made deep purple splashes along the side and the top was a rustic golden brown. unfortunately, i planned on carting this cobbler to a friends get-together and knew there was no way for me to sneak a piece without it being obvious. so, i had to wait. i'm not good at waiting.

when it was time to bring out dessert, i reheated the cobbler a bit and served it up to my hosting friends, plus scrimp and my eye guy with a big dollop of vanilla ice cream riding side saddle. i'd say it was a summer hit and was one recipe i'll be making again and again. (i know this because i already have in individual ramekins for my own weeknight dining pleasure.)

blackberry cobbler
thanks to the pioneer woman
6 cups Fresh Or Frozen Blackberries
1/2 cup Plus 4 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1/2 whole Zest Of Lemon
2 cups Flour
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1/4 cup Crisco (vegetable Shortening)
4 Tablespoons Butter
1 whole Egg
1/2 cup Milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine blackberries, ½ cup sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a mixing bowl. Stir and spread out in a buttered pyrex dish.
In a separate bowl pour flour, salt, baking powder, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Add shortening and butter and work mixture together with a pastry blender (or your fingers) until the mixture is coarse. Measure ½ cup milk, add an egg, and mix together. Pour into flour mixture, stirring as you go. Mixture should be smooth and not dry, but not over stickly.
Take clumps of dough and place them on top of the blackberries. Lightly flatten dough with your fingertips. Sprinkle with 2 to 3 tablespoons of sugar and bake until golden for 30 minutes. Berry juice will be slightly thin, but don’t be afraid. It will gradually soak into the biscuity topping and make your life complete.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

.to farmer's market we go.

since moving to memphis, we've steadily gained a beautiful life. we've had each other all along, but a full life is colored with friends, weekend plans, good meals, mini-trips, and always discovering something new in a place you already call home.

now on our fourth year in this bbq and blues city, we've dined, visited, played at, and explored so many crevices of our new area. however, that treasure map we've 'cartographered' ourselves has really pointed us to some gems.

here and there, i've heard of the local farmer's markets in the city and we've even tried one out very close to our house. with only a few vegetables and many empty bins, we were not impressed. somewhat reluctant to drive too far on a lazy saturday morning, i've never suggested going to the downtown farmer's market. this weekend was a well-chosen exception.

the memphis farmer's market is situated in a little corner of downtown near some places we've previously visited. we decided to grab some breakfast before seeing what the market had to offer.

at the restaurant aptly named cafe beignet, down the block from the market, we entered a new orleans decor-ed restaurant that served some pretty tasty cheese eggs. oh, you want to know about the beignets? they were really good, not cafe du monde good, but we inhaled them, coughing on powdered sugar and all nonetheless.

on the walk back to the market to begin our perusing, we saw an older gentleman (can you tell i'm from the south?) in a neon green shirt running after a dog. we looked at each other and instantly knew a dog had escaped the dog-sitting booth we saw on our way to breakfast. my heroic eye guy went to help and together they got the dog back. phew.

we then continued on to the market where we checked out all the rescue dogs and i pretty much tortured myself by not bringing every single one of them home with me. or ok, this one really ugly, cute one i took a liking to.

the market itself had all the produce we said we wanted on the drive over, plus more that we couldn't resist. a friend of mine had told me goat cheese was one of her favorite farmer's market finds and i could almost taste it as soon as i knew i'd get an opportunity to get some myself. and get some, i did.

gorgeous, the flowers were bountiful and bold. there were these flowers as big as the sun that i just couldn't go home without. and so i didn't.

the memphis farmer's market wasn't a massive expanse of booths, but the amount they had was definitely worth the drive. this time, our exploration map pointed us to a hidden treasure that has been there all along.

since bringing all our booty home, we've eaten the most luscious peaches that ever existed and fried some eggplant to go with our pasta dinner.

the memphis farmer's market let us bring a little sunshine into our home. into our full life.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

.banana walnut muffins.

my mother-in-law spoils her family and guests with a banana bread cake that she makes in a bundt pan. not only is it a pretty presentation, dressed in a dusting of powdered sugar, but it tastes so good fresh from the oven and also the day after for breakfast. it really doesn't last past one day because it is in high demand.

a wife notices her husband's "mmms" and this banana bread cake always entices just that out of my eye guy. so when we ended up with a really ripe banana on our own kitchen counter, i decided to try my hand at making banana bread.

because it would just be the two of us, i knew a full cake would be an insult to our already happy waist lines. so, i wanted to make muffins. with banana bread, there's a fine line between the dry variety and those that are moist. avoiding a dry muffin was my intent.

i did some mixin' and swrilin' and hopin' that after all this....they woudn't get dry in my paaaaannn...ok, enough singing.

once i got to the part where i was to add some chocolate chips, i made an adjustment. i knew my eye guy would prefer some walnuts in them over some girly chocolate chips. doesn't hurt that i would too.

after the muffins were ready to go in the oven, i crossed my fingers they'd come out on the other side and make me proud.

when the timer went off, i finally uncrossed my fingers to put them in my green kitchen mitts. ok, ok...i didn't truly keep them crossed the WHOLE time. regardless, the muffins looked like twelve perfectly plump little banana breads just waiting to be tasted.

that first bite. oh, that first bite. not only were they moist, but they were also decidedly delicious. i couldn't wait for the hubbers to try them. when he arrived home, i almost shoved one in his mouth before he had a chance to say hello.

he didn't seem to mind and proceeded to devour almost the whole dozen. well, i helped and luckily for those happy waist lines of ours, we did stretch the devouring over a couple of days. i definitely think these banana walnut muffins be mother-in-law approved.

this is one of those recipes that i'll be making over and over again. i almost wish i had some house guests coming this weekend so i could lay these out for breakfast. almost.

banana bread muffins


2 cups White Sugar
½ cups Vegetable Oil
2 whole Eggs
2-⅔ cups Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1-½ teaspoon Salt
1 cup Milk
2 cups Mashed Ripe Banana
1 cup Chocolate Chips

In a large bowl, combine sugar, oil, and eggs.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Into the large bowl, alternate adding milk and dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
Add bananas and chocolate chips.
Preheat oven to 350F, spray 3 loaf pans (medium, 4.5″x 8.5″) with cooking spray. Divide dough evenly. Bake all 3 loaves together for 55 minutes, rotating as needed.
1. 2 cups bananas = about 4 bananas.
2. HALF of this recipe makes 12 regular muffins, bake for 20-25 minutes.
3. Freezes well in a plastic zipper bag.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

.mmmmacadamia nut, white chocolate cookies.

it all started with an email.

remember the friend who lets me use her stand-up mixer to whip up all these delicious dishes? well, i knew it would be something good when i saw her name pop up in my email box.

her- i have some macadamia nuts my aunt brought from hawaii. i've made a batch of cookies and know i won't use the rest of the bag in time. would you like them?
me- uh, YES! i'll come get them NOW.
(disclaimer: correspondance from memory so it wasn't word for word of course. no copying and pasting here.)

you see, my mind had visions of little white chocolate macadamia nut cookies dancing around in vanilla colored tutus and white chocolate top hats almost as soon as i read the email. what a decadent show that would be.

after gratefully picking up the bag of premium macadamia nuts, i knew i had to do them justice by adding them to something delicious right away. so, i got to work on the recipe at the bottom of this post. i'll admit that this was one of those baking processes that basically begged me to take little tastes here and there as i went. how could i turn down cookie dough?

from the moment the dry and wet ingredients merged, i knew it was cookie love. to then add in the white chocolate chips and the nuts, i could barely wait to get them in and out of the oven. for those non-nut loving nuts in my life, i even made a batch with white and milk chocolate chips instead of the featured ingredient. i'm so kind.

just as i had imagined, there was much dancing. with these cookies in hand (and soon in mouth), i was twirling around my kitchen in an apron-like ball gown. absolutely scrumptious. so, if you get your hands on a friend that has a stash of divine ingredients, most definitely say YES. and if you don't, run out to the store and grab what you need to make these dancing darlings.

if you have any other recipe ideas that i could use the remaining macadamia nuts for, i'd love for you to share...

white chocolate macadamia nut cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1½ cups chopped macadamia nuts
2 cups white chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease baking sheets or line with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
3. Beat together the melted butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. Beat in the egg, then beat in the egg yolk, then beat in the vanilla.
4. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture until just moistened. Stir in the macadamia nuts and white chocolate chips by hand with a rubber spatula.
5. Roll into balls or drop by heaping tablespoons onto baking sheets, and press down on the cookies with your palm a bit to flatten (not too much!).
6. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges look golden brown and the middles don’t look quite set. Allow to finish cooling on the baking sheet.
Yields about 2 dozen cookies.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

.i've gotta hunch you'll wanna brunch.

my final posting about my petite brunch will be mostly a show and (a little) tell. check out the mini-donuts, grits bar, egg muffins, and cheesecake shots for individual ideas. today, this will be more of a feast for the eyes. so, enjoy!

setting up this brunch was a labor of love for me. not only did i get to play in the kitchen, but i also got to pretend i was a party-setter-upper extraordinaire.

to keep the theme as girly as possible, i skipped the usual mimosas and replaced them with the grapefruit variety.

here, my florida gals are helping with a wee pour.

from each little place setting...

to the whole spread...

it was a joyous late morning.

it feels good to smile this much. and it sure doesn't hurt that i have an armload of yummy.

it is usually best to end on a sweet note. and they all ate happily ever after...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

.the courage to help.

if you'll remember, i talked about one of my all time favorite books here and its impending movie release. once the movie had been released, a couple girlfriends and i waited anxiously until our night to go see it.

last night, i had the privilege of seeing 'the help.' there has never in my life been a movie based on a book that i was head over heels about. until now. this film really did give justice to the novel in a way i had never expected. just as with the book, i cried, i laughed, i even found myself clapping along with the audience at certain scenes. did i really do that?

in short, i LOVED it! what struck me again with the story was the courage of these characters. as with the book, i found myself wishing i really knew them. i want to sit around a table and just talk, tell stories, spend time with these brave women. it also helps that one of the heroines has red, curly hair.

there is heart, soul, and so much to think about during this movie that i regained my ability to believe that it really does take one person, one act, one movement to change the world. as the movie began winding its story down, my mind began working its way up.

it does take courage to be true to yourself and to your beliefs and those are things i've been extremely passionate about throughout my life. it does take courage to believe in humanity over all else. it does take courage to be kind. the courage in this movie, from this story, has reminded me that i am proud of who i am. i am proud of my beliefs, my stances, my ideals.

if you've yet to see 'the help,' please indulge in a cinematic treat for yourself. your heart is sure to feel warmer when you walk out of the theater. and if it begins to chill again, go read the book.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

.through the gray.

every day this week, i've pulled into my gray house with my gray heart. i have dreaded the colorless nights without my fur baby and wonder when his absence won't be so looming any more. if time heals, i'm buying another clock. however, i know the road to emotional recovery all too well and it has less to do with time and more to do with holding onto memories, perseverance and surrounding love.

luckily, i am lucky.

the support from the people in my life has been amazing. a kind word, a hug, all those texts, emails, calls and thoughts- they comfort me.

sometimes, it is just a little thing.

other times, it is a thoughtful card.

maybe a smile over sushi.

a dog lover friend of mine had the most bright flowers sent my way with a little note and balloon to let me know she was thinking of me.

after all this color being brought into my life it is hard to stay in the gray.

saying thank you doesn't quite encompass how grateful i am to the people in my life. from the ones who brought me into this world to the ones that i choose to have in my life, i owe my returning smiles to you. i'm sure mocha would rather see his mommy happy, right?