a cake you can eat without having to put your big-girl pants on

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I have always wondered why chocolate is never a featured dessert on a Thanksgiving table.  Sure, it’s time to celebrate the harvest of pumpkins and apples, but in my world, chocolate is never out of season.

My Frazer side of the family celebrated Thanksgiving on Saturday night, and Mom asked specifically if I would bake a non-pumpkin dessert, since my sister-in-law doesn’t like pumpkin.  I thought about it and decided to fix a sure crowd-pleaser:  chocolate chocolate-chip cake.

(You are most definitely allowed to drool at this point in the blog.)

This was going to be an all-around hit, I was certain, since my mother loves chocolate, my sister-in-law would like the non-pumpkinness, and my husband would get to eat his favorite cake that his Nanaw makes (and now his wife makes).  This was going to not just be feeding Farley, but feeding Frazer(s) as well.

Important to know: a nice change with this cake is that you’re not dying in chocolate (which I know might be a disappointment for some of you out there).

This is not the kind of cake that is so-rich-you-only-eat-two-bites-and-feel-like-you-swallowed-a-gold-mine rich;

this is not the kind of cake that you split with someone as a dessert;

this is the kind of dessert that you can have all to your own, chocolate cake, chocolate chips, and all.

(It’s awesome that you can actually eat a slice of this cake without needing to put your big-girl pants on.)

The recipe comes from one of the truest Southern adorable ladies to ever emerge from Virginia, who generously share it with me and I am glad to share it with you.

NOTE:  This cake is semi-homemade, so for you purists or die-hard from-scratchers, suck it up and try it on for size because it cooks up faster than you can say chocolate-chip and it’s absolutely fabulous.

NANAW’S CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE-CHIP CAKE

1–Preheat your oven to 325 and mix up 1 box Duncan Hines’ yellow cake mix, 1 small box of instant vanilla pudding, and 1 small box of instant chocolate pudding in a large bowl  Dig a well in the center and set it aside for a second.


2–In another large-ish bowl, beat together 4 eggs , 3/4 cup vegetable oil, and 1 cuppa water. (I skipped idea of my Kitchen-Aid or even my hand-held mixer and went with my beloved rotary beater instead.)

3–Pour this nice fluffy liquid mess into the aforementioned well in the dry mix and also mix in 6 oz. of chocolate chips (about half a bag). Stir it up, stir it good.

4–Get all of this into a Bundt pan and use a rubber scraper to get every last bit of chocolate yum yum into the pan.

5–Bake it for 1 hour.

6–MAKE SURE YOU LET THE CAKE FULLY COOL BEFORE UNMOLDING!
(Hubs, who loves to be helpful, knows how stressed out I get when I feel like I’m in a rush, so he unmolded the cake and the top wasn’t so attractive….oh well…..can be smoothed out with icing, if you so choose, or chocolate syrup and confectioner’s sugar sprinkled on top. I went with just the sugar).  Nanaw serves this cake as-is, no icing or any frilly stuff.

 

And it doesn’t NEED any frilly stuff.

(I forgot to take my *finished product* shot, and when I went to do it, there wasn’t any cake left.  True story.  Will post a pic next time I make it…better yet, if you, dear reader, fix this cake yourself, why don’t you send in a shot of your own? That’d be awesome!)

You will never leave a chocolate dessert off of your holiday buffet again!

Enjoy!

smack your lips together and call it good

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While I wish I could write today about all of the trimmings and goodies I’d be preparing for Thanksgiving, I can’t, since I am not cooking at any one of the three Thanksgiving celebrations we are attending—the moms and grandmas own this, and until we have wee ones of our own, I am totally fine with being fed by tried-and-true turkey-day champions!!!

So I’m going to write to you about snacking instead.

We rarely buy packaged snack-food to keep around our house (unless you’re counting Hot Tamales).

Hence, when I’m home and feeling a tad bit snickety-snackety, I usually run out of options and have a few handfuls of cereal.

This gets old after a while, not to mention how it depletes my supplies of workday-morning breakfast fare.

I was hunting around in my cabinets to think of what kind of small bite I could come up with that wouldn’t completely destroy any positive, nutritional efforts I may have achieved that day (save for the Hot Tamales) and it struck me:  trail mix!

This recipe comes by way of a friend and I swear it is so sweet and crunchy and good you pretty much forget that it’s reasonably good for you.

 

MAMA JACKIE’S LIP-SMACKIN’ TRAIL MIX (adapted)

1–Take out your favorite granola cereal and measure out 2 cups.

2–To that, add 3/4 cup pecans, 3/4 cup almonds, and 1 1/2 cup flaked coconut.


3–Spice it up with 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, and 1 tsp. salt.

4–Add a can of sweetened condensed milk and 1/4 cup vegetable oil.  Mix it up and make sure your delicious mixture is evening coated.

5–Spread out the goodness on a cookie sheet and bake at 300 for 60-75 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

**NOTE:  I thought this part would be annoying, because, hey, who wants to have to get up from whatever it is they’re doing every fifteen minutes, but indeed, ’twas not.  I merely set my timer, and while the trail mix was baking, I washed up some dishes, put clothes away, swept, etc, etc–on my report card, this would be called ‘uses time wisely!’ :-)**

6–When it’s all said and done, remove the mix from the oven and stir in 1/2 cup gold raisins, 1/2 cup dark raisins, 1/2 cup dried cherries, and 1/2 cup dried cranberries. Let it cool and store in an air-tight container. (Mama Jackie suggests a screw-top jar–like a mason jar—in lieu of a ziplock or tin)

Smack your lips together and call it good.

Enjoy!

 

do you know the muffin, mon?

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This cold weather makes me want my honeymoon and all of the warm, sunny, rum-drenched air of  Jamaica back.

sunset in Negril

It makes me want to curl up with my hubs and pretend that we are on vacation and don’t have to get up early in the morning.

But you know what else this cold weather makes me want to do?

 

 

…..

 

 

 

….

bake!

jamaica, baked into a muffin.

Should you ever have the opportunity to stay at Couples Negril , you will find  the people beautiful, the music intoxicating, and, the rum.  Yep, that’s basically it:  the rum.  In Jamaica, the rum flows like ocean water:  strong and everywhere.  Rum punch,  rum runners, rum cakes, daily rum drink specials at the plethora of bars permeating the place, rum everything–even rum cream, which is totally scrumptious.

And then, of course, is the Bananas Foster. Which my father-in-law happens to be a master of.(He is not Jamaican, no….but close.)  His Bananas Foster brings your mouth to a most tropical place that beckons to be returned to.  Which I would like to do. Right now.

I know that it it entirely impractical to believe most of us can  jet off to the islands whenever the whim hits, but it is entirely practical to bake Jamaica into a muffin.

All you need are some bananas and some rum to make an ordinary muffin a Bananas Foster muffin!

 

(looks like we're runnin' a little low....)

For a tropical and comforting treat on a cold day when all you long for is hot sand,  exotic fruits, and steel drum bands, sink your teeth into one of these babies:

BANANAS FOSTER MUFFINS

1–Beat 2 eggs, and pour them over 3 bananas that you’ve mashed up. (They should not just be freckled; they should have a tan—just like the kind you would have if you were in island paradise right now).  Preheat your oven to 350.

2–Add to these bananas 1/2  stick of butter, melted, and 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed. And then for the fun part:  pour in a delicious and smooth 1/4 cup dark or spiced rum, whatever you happen to have in your home bar.

NOTE:  instead of mixing this up with a spoon, I just mash it all up together with my potato masher–works like a charm!

3–Pour this into a medium skillet and cook over med-low heat until bubbly.

NOTE:  at this point, if you decide AGAINST making muffins, turn off your oven and pour this over ice cream and have dessert instead of breakfast!!! And WHY NOT!!!?? This is supposed to be similar to vacation eating, no?

4–Stir in 1 1/2 cups flour and 1 tsp. baking soda until just blended.  (Don’t worry about any lumps, lumps give it character–and overbeating those lumps are just gonna beat you, honey:  you’ll get tough muffins that don’t rise very nicely!)

5–Bake for 20-25 minutes.

 

glazed baked jamaicas

Now, at this point, you have two choices:  make a glaze or coat with icing.  The recipe will be the same; the only difference is when you top the muffins.  For a glaze, pour it over while the muffins are still warm.  For an icing, wait till they’ve cooled.

**Take 1/3 cup of powdered sugar and 1 T. of rum and mix. Add a small dribble or so of milk until it reaching icing consistency.  Taste–it will taste very rummy–but if you think it’s too strong, make a glaze—it mellows out the flavor.

 

Also, feel free to add any chopped pineapple to your blend of banana mix (about instead of three bananas, you can mash 2 and add 1/2 cup pineapple, drained) and you can certainly add toasted coconut to your topping.

 

Who would have ever thought that one little muffin like this:

could bring you here:

Enjoy!

 

 

 

other things to do with rice krispies

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Almost everyone I know who is from Virginia has lived in Richmond at some point in their lives, myself included.  (Ok, I’m not really “from” Virginia, but since I’ve lived here for a decade, I can count, right?)

So, circa 2004, I had just moved to Richmond for a teaching job and was armed with books.  I  scored an awesome apartment, and had daydreams of swanky dinner parties dancing in my head.

And circa 2004, all the people in my social circle were vegetarian, and I had not yet learned their ways.

Most luckily, circa 2004, I met someone who would become one of my best friends in this lifetime:  the awesome and famous LeighAnn-oh-Ramma.

my surrogate Richmond/Carolina family

She and her bass-playing, premiere-chef hubby were both veggie circa 2004. Fresh from Boone, North Carolina, we all played music together, explored the city together, and–most frequently–ate together.

LeighAnn is the most loving, generous human being I know.  She is my surrogate family, she is a sister, and she is frickin hilarious.  My husband believes that being around LeighAnn brings out my truest Punky nature, and I’m ok with that.

….and my replica of a Hallmark card is over, and here is where I would like to share with you a very vegetarian-friendly recipe that my dear LeighAnn shared with me:  her mama’s granola recipe, first sampled on a crazy night after  the Avett Brothers show around Christmastime at The Orange Peel in Asheville, NC.   Circa 2008.

(non-vegetarians will enjoy this happy snack, by the way)

It is sweet and delicious and it is

MAMA JACKIE’S GRANOLA

1–Preheat your oven to 350, like usual

2–Mix 3 cups uncooked quick oats and 2 cups of Rice Krispies together and spread’em out on a non-stick cookie sheet (make sure it’s a real cookie sheet, one that has sides).  Bake for 10 minutes and stir it just one time, one time.

3–IN THE MEANTIME, mix yourself up about 6-7 T of honey, 1 tsp. canola oil,  1/4 cup apple juice, and 1/2 tsp each of ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and vanilla extract.


4–CAREFULLY spoon your cereal mixture back into a bowl and add about 1/4 cup slivered almonds and mix the sucker up.

NOTE: I am incredibly clutzy, spaztic, clumsy–insert favorite adjective for “not careful” here.  And while I feel silly admitting this, thought you oughta know in case you, too, are like me:  I had a hard time pouring this back into a bowl without making a ginormous mess.  If you can identify, just take a deep breath, go carefully and slowly, and whatever you do, do NOT let go of the cookie sheet!

5–Pronounce the honey and cereal mixes husband and wife by pouring the honey mixture over the cereal mixture, stirring until one and the same (coated).

6–Pour it all back in the pan and bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally and making sure the cereal along the sides doesn’t burn!

7–Stir in 1/4 cup dried cranberries and 1/4 cup raisins, cool it off, and set it in an air-tight container.

NOTE:  I love dried cranberries, so I just went ahead and added more.


DELICIOUS snack.

POTENTIAL cereal.

TOTAL yum.

 

Enjoy!

the man who cooks for his woman has a happy woman, AKA, feeding mrs. farley

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When a girl dreams about her prince charming, she imagines that one day, a man who loves her and only her will come along and be a handsome, kind, loving, generous, hilarious, romantic, confident, warm-hearted and wonderful sort of prince charming.

I have been blessed to have met and married that wonderful sort, but never would I have imagined that once upon a time, the prince would sometimes cook for his woman.   But it makes total sense, doesn’t it?  I mean, that goes right along with the kind, warm-hearted, and generous part.

 

It seems like every month of the year presents its share of hectic chaos to our calendars, but fall frequently proves itself craziest for the schedule, since we are both teachers and I advise a literary magazine and my husband is the band director…..and this is more often than not his busier time than mine.

So imagine my complete appreciation, delight, and surprise when he offered to cook up something for dinner!  Yes!! Feeding MRS. Farley does this blog become today!! (That syntax was most Yoda-ish, but it works, ok? )

My husband makes several delicious dishes, but the recipe below is one that I most often request when it’s his turn to cook.  I asked him what he wanted it to be called, and it’s a nothing-fancy kind of name that he came up with.   Now presenting:

 

ROASTED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH VEGETABLES

1–Take 2 pork tenderloins and sprinkle them with freshly ground salt and pepper on all sides.  You do this in a casserole large enough to fit these loins with space to spare, says the mister.  Preheat your oven to 350 while you’re at it.

2–Chop 2 red bell peppers into 1-inch chunks, along with 2-3 onions into eighths (long-ways, he says).  “Leaf” the onions on top of the pork  (pull apart the layers) and then add the peppers.

3–Coat the mixture with olive oil (3-4 T) and balsamic vinegar–at least 4 T., but we like it really balsamic-y, so add more to your taste and liking.  Mix veggies with your hands to make sure it’s all super duper coated.  Sprinkle a little more salt and pepper on top.

4-Cook until the meat is 160 degrees at the thickest part; let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing up and diggin’ in!!!!!! mmmmmm mmmmmmmm good.

(you can measure the temp with this meat thermometer that I swear by, which has saved me both from dry, overcooked meat and salmonella alike)

You can really make this recipe any time of year; it belongs to no particular season, but it does definitely belong in your repertoire of recipes!

This is equally fantastic when sitting atop  roasted garlic and olive oil couscous, available at your local supermarket, found with all the rice.

(But we love mashed potatoes in the fall, hence the photo of delightful dinner below)

Enjoy and happy eating!!

 

adam sandler serenades me in the kitchen…i mean…

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Farley hasn’t met a food he doesn’t much care for (except for maybe cauliflower), and while we go out for Thai and Indian, and grab sushi whenever we can, I daresay my hubs is a comfort-food man.

He also does not typically support ‘meatless dinners.’

So on a night where I might have otherwise torn open a box of Fruit Loops (definitely meatless) and gone to town…..well….things have changed.  I have a hubs to feed–and a non-vegetarian hubs at that! Grades are due for us tomorrow–we are both teachers in the same school–and that left little time for me to cultivate a “culinary extravaganza” for this evening.

I stuck to my tasted-and-true:  sloppy joes.

(I have strands of Adam Sandler in my head just typing this for you–humming away in my head am I)

It is definitely easy to pop open some pre-made, sodium-rich glop to shove onto your browned beef….but how appealing is that, really?

Hamburger and sugar syrup do not belong together.

I am on a mission tonight to break them up. Just call me the other woman, why don’t you.

May I present to you an alternative , super FAST, DELICIOUS, HEALTHIER, and EASY way for you to make from-scratch sloppy joes that are definitely sloppy? Oh, and that won’t pickle your arteries with salt? (lovely).

(adapted from Rachael Ray)

SLOPPY JOES

(does not require a fancy name)

 

1–Heat a large skillet over med-hi heat.   Add 1 T olive oil and 1 1b. ground beef, and spread it around the pan to break up into teeny teeny pieces.

2– In another bowl, stir up 1/4 cup brown sugar and 2 1/2 tsp. steak seasoning. Make sure to get rid of any sugar lumps!  Add this to the meat mixture and combine.

3–When you see your meat is browning nicely, throw some onion (1 medium one chopped) and red pepper (1 small one, chopped) into the mix.   Bring the heat down to medium and cook for about 5 minutes.

4–Stir in 1 T. red wine vinegar, 1 T. Worcestershire, 2 c. tomato sauce (NOT pasta sauce! Just tomato!) and 2 T. tomato paste. Stir it all up, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 5 more minutes.

Totally easy, totally weeknight do-able, totally yummy!

We spooned it up onto hamburger buns with a slice of cheese.

(Moral of today’s story: you don’t need to mess to much with a sloppy joe).

See you tomorrow for a slice of cinnamony baked goodness!

Enjoy and happy eating!

brown sugar + sparkle city

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This little Yankee girl ventured down to good ole Jefferson City, Tennessee to study English here and, as you might anticipate, met of lot of friends who hailed from the South.  My roommate Jenny came from a solid Spartanburg,  South Carolina  family of six and a mama who sure can cook.  When we got a first apartment, I was ecstatic:  we could cook and have friends over and not eat in the dining hall!  I had big plans for pasta, sauce, chicken parmigiana, meatballs…….this was all I knew how to cook back then.  Jenny called up her Mama Ruthi for instructions on how to make some good home cookin’.   It was from these initial recipes from Mama Ruthi that I began learning old-fashioned American fare to add to my budding Italian-American repertoire.

Last night, coming home from birthday festivities (whose? Mine! Why, thank you!), I remembered that I signed up to bring a dessert to the faculty pot-luck luncheon for today.  Now, I could have been super-lazy and super-within-my-rights to not have to bake at 9:30 p.m. on a Sunday night on my birthday!!!!, but I knew that fixing Mama Ruthi’s banana bread would be super-fast and super-simple, not to mention super-DELICIOUS! Of all the banana bread recipes I’ve ever sampled, this one takes the….bread.

Moist, sweet, and airy, here’s a banana bread recipe you need to adopt into your box of recipe cards. After all, it is an American classic!

**NOTE:  I wait to use my bananas until I see that they are beyond freckled; they are more along the lines of developing a tan.  I think this could be the secret**

SOUTH CAROLINA BANANA BREAD

1- Preheat your over to 350.Get out a medium bowl.  Melt 1/4 cup butter and  mix in with 2 already-beaten eggs. Stir baby, stir.

2–Add 1 cup brown sugar, packed down, to the bowl. Break it up, mix it up, get rid of all lumps.

3–Add to this sugary, creamy mixture 3-4 overripe bananas and mash those bad boys up, smashing them against the side of the bowl with a wooden spoon if need be.

4–Add 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Mix well, but not too well—just get it all mixed together so you don’t see any white spots of flour anywhere on that bowl.

5–Grease/Pam up a 9*5 loaf pan and pour your brown sugar banana batter on it.  Bake for 1 hour. You can let it cool in the pan, or take it out and place on your wire racks, what have you—I have done both and haven’t found a dramatic difference either way.

Makes your house smell like home and your tummy feel loved.

 

(here is where I would like to add the optional, choose-your-own-adventure ending):

VIRGINIA PEANUT BUTTER GLAZE

1–Combine 1/3 c. powdered sugar, 1 T. skim milk, and 1 T. peanut butter (I like JIF–use whatever you like, but NOT CRUNCHY!!!!!!) Whisk it up and pour it over the bread………..mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

 

Eat it, love it.

Banana Bread on Foodista