Monday, June 27, 2011

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie in a Cast Iron Skillet

I was brainstorming what to make for Grant for Father's Day and kept coming back to the good old standby of chocolate chip cookies. There's hardly anything he likes more than those.  But I wanted to jazz them up a bit, make it something out of the ordinary.  Then I saw this recipe on foodgawker and thought it would be pretty fun to make, not to mention faster than all those cookie trays.  Plus, there's always the option of decorating it with frosting, which could only make it better!  

He was delighted, as were the children.  It tasted great, even though I think I overbaked it a tiny bit.  The original recipe said to bake it for 40-45 minutes, but when I checked it at 35 minutes, it was definitely done.  So check early, always check early!  Ovens are not created equal.  

I made a basic buttercream frosting for decorating, using a stick of butter creamed with 2 cups of powdered sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla, a Tablespoon or two of milk, and added a couple of Tablespoons of cocoa powder to part of it to make chocolate frosting.  I did have frosting left over, which nobody complained about eating on graham crackers.  

If you don't have a need for decoration, this would be fabulous served warm from the oven with ice cream and hot fudge or caramel sauce.....ummm, I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.  

2 cups all purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
2 t. vanilla extract
1-1/2 c. chocolate chips (I used 1 bag Nestle mint chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 350°.
In a medium bowl,  whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla; mix until they are fully incorporated. Add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
Transfer dough to a 10-inch ovenproof skillet (I greased with a little coconut oil), and press to flatten, covering bottom of pan. Bake until edges are brown and top is golden, 30-35 minutes. Don't overbake; it will continue to cook a few minutes out of the oven. Transfer to a wire rack to cool in pan, 15 to 20 minutes. Cut into wedges.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Spicy Pulled Pork

We don't eat pork very you might have noticed from browsing my recipe index.....but while my in-laws were here, I decided to give this recipe from the Pioneer Woman's Cookbook a try. It just sounded so good....not to mention easy.  
She recommends serving it with warm flour tortillas, lime wedges, guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream. Leftovers can be used for soups, enchiladas, tostadas, sandwiches, whatever you want. 
So I did what she said.  Served it with tortillas, lime wedges (give one a squeeze over your serving - it really was delicious!), slices of avocado, and sour cream.  We all thought it was pretty fantastic. 
Leftovers were eaten pretty much the same way, or on whole wheat buns.  Either way, it makes a tasty meal that pleased just about everybody. 

I did alter her cooking method, by using the crock pot instead of the oven (and eliminating the extra cooking liquid) so we could be out and about all day and not have to worry about it. 


4 lbs (up to 7 lbs) pork shoulder
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. chili powder
1 T (to 2 T) salt
pepper to taste
3-4 cloves garlic
2 T. white vinegar
1-2 T. olive oil
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 onion (cut into quarters)

For Serving: tortillas, sour cream, avocados, salsa, lime wedges, etc.

Rinse pork and pat dry. Place in crock pot.
Combine all the remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend into a nice paste.  Pour over the pork and rub all over, getting into every nook and cranny.
Cook on low for 8-10 hours, until pork shreds easily with a fork.  Remove from crock pot and cut off any fat (if desired) and shred meat well.  Pour some of the juices over the meat to keep it moist.  Serve as desired!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Rice Krispies Dipper Treats

Last Wednesday night was Annika's (3) turn to take snack to her Rainbows class at church.  She had originally just told me she wanted to take fruit snacks, but I talked her into helping me make something more fun than that.  I had seen this recipe in both my Taste of Home and Parents magazines and thought it would be a great treat for kids.  Annika agreed and was more than happy to help me make them.

Two notes:  Some of the bars may not want to stay on the sticks too just have to smush them around the stick as well as you can.
Also, I thought there was a tad too much oil for the chocolate - it set up okay but was quick to get soft and melty again at room temperature, so next time I'll just use about a teaspoon of oil.

Unfortunately, I don't know how the treats were received by the children, as Annika had to leave class before snack was served due to an accident I'll detail below.

Recipe: (from Rice Krispies)

3 T. butter or margarine
1 (10 oz) package regular marshmallows
6 cups crispy rice cereal
18 wooden ice cream sticks
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet or white chocolate morsels
1 T. canola oil (can and will use less next time)
Multi-colored sprinkles (optional)

In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat.  Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted.  Remove from heat.  Add cereal.  Stir until well coated.
Using buttered spatula or wax paper, press mixture into a greased 13 x 9" pan. Cool.  Cut into 18 3x2 inch bars.  Push one stick into the bottom of each bar.
In a small microwave safe bowl, combine chocolate and oil.  Microwave on high for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.  Dip bars into chocolate (or drizzle over each bar) and decorate as you like.  Place on wax paper. Refrigerate until chocolate is set.

SO.  What happened to Annika?

Apparently she thought it would be fun to climb on top of a bookcase in her classroom (have no idea what got into her, she normally doesn't behave like that.....really.) and when her teacher caught sight of her and told her to get down, she turned around and jumped off, catching her lip on the bookcase somehow and ripping her frenulum in the process (the piece of tissue that connects the upper lip to the gum).


Grant had to bring her and the other kids home and decided to take her to an urgent care clinic to see if she needed stitches.  (I'm just glad he didn't even suggest stitching her up himself, like he did with his own injury a couple of years ago.)  Two and a half hours later they returned stitches, no shots, as she was proud to tell me, just some saline solution to rinse with several times a day and a prescription for an antibiotic as a precaution, along with instructions to follow up with her pediatrician in a couple of days. 

Would you believe that in 7-1/2 years with four children, this is the FIRST time any of my kids has been on antibiotics?  It's true!  We have been blessed with very healthy kids.  Plus the fact that we home school and they're not around other kids all day every day probably helps.  And breastfeeding for a year each certainly doesn't hurt.  

Anyways, poor Annika's biggest regret about all of this is not the terrible tasting liquid antibiotic she has to take twice a day or the discomfort of her injury - it's that she missed getting one of her Rice Krispy Dipper Treats at class.  I promised her we'll make another batch soon.  
And at her follow-up appointment today, the doctor said she's healing great and will be as good as new in a few days.  I'm really glad mouths heal quickly.  
And I'm really glad she couldn't really see her injury, because then she would have reacted MUCH more dramatically.  

Friday, June 17, 2011

Strawberry Summer Cake

My family is officially in love with this cake.  

Grant has a lovely uncle and aunt (Hi Larry and Sally!) who live on the West Coast and are huge fans of Bob's Red Mill and their products. On occasion they get to go to an actual Bob's Red Mill store in Oregon and have sent us goodies from there several times.   
A few weeks ago, I was browsing around on Smitten Kitchen and was intrigued by her recipe for Strawberry Summer Cake. It sounded pretty simple, but there was one ingredient that took me by surprise. 
Barley Flour.  
I have never seen barley flour anywhere, heard of anyone using it, or seen any recipes including it.  Ever.
I wondered if it really made a difference in the cake or not, wondered if I should just try making the cake with all regular or whole wheat flour.  
Then I got an email from Aunt Sally.  She said they were going to the Bob's Red Mill store the next day and wanted me to pick some products that I would like to try.  
Barley flour was right up there on the list, as this cake was fresh on my mind.  Honestly, I never would have even considered barley flour otherwise.  
They sent me a wonderful box full of all my ideas, far exceeding my expectations.  So much fun!  
I'm busy experimenting with millet flour and spelt flour too...but more on that another time.
So, I've made the cake twice in a week now, both times including the barley flour.  It is just so delicious.  
I'm sure I'll be trying it with other berries as well, raspberries, maybe blueberries or blackberries, maybe combinations, maybe peaches.  But it will be hard to beat the strawberries.

By the way, the cake didn't slice well for me either time, but it was so delicious nobody cared.  We like it with vanilla ice cream.  

Recipe: (from Smitten Kitchen)

6 T. butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
1 large egg
1/2 c. milk
1 t. vanilla extract
3/4 c. white whole wheat flour 
3/4 c. barley flour (or all purpose flour)
1-1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 lb. strawberries, washed and hulled
2 T. sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.  Butter a 9" cake pan or deep dish pie pan (I haven't tried it, but apparently a regular 9" pie pan will overflow).  
In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add egg, milk, and vanilla.  Mix well.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, barley flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add to butter mixture and combine well.  Spread into greased pan.  
Slice the berries in half (or if you're a bit short on berries, into thin slices) and distribute evenly over the cake batter.  Sprinkle with 2 T. sugar. 
Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temp. to 325° and continue to bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Serve with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cheesecake

I've been pretty busy the past few weeks - Grant's parents visited for three weeks and we've had a lot of activities going on, not the least of which is cooking and eating! We've tried several new recipes (as I am never hesitant to try out new things on guests) and this was the biggest dessert experiment.  It is truly a lovely cheesecake, fluffy and light tasting, with just the right amount of chocolate to complement the strawberries.  I have to admit that both Grant and I prefer more dense cheesecakes, ones without sour cream and the extra egg, to be more specific, but we certainly didn't complain about this one and neither did anyone else.
I loved having some extra of the strawberry puree to drizzle on top - it added that extra zing of fresh strawberry flavor.  Adding some homemade sweetened whipped cream wouldn't be a bad idea either (is it ever?) but we skipped that this time.

Recipe: (adapted from Annie's Eats)

1 package graham crackers, crushed
2 t. sugar
1/4 c. butter, melted
1/2 t. cinnamon

24 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1-1/3 c. sugar
4 large eggs
1-1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt
12 oz. sour cream
1 c. strawberry puree*

Chocolate topping:
4 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
4-1/2 oz. heavy cream
1/2 of 1 large egg, beaten

*Strawberry puree
1 lb strawberries
2-3 T. sugar
juice of half a lemon
Hull and slice the berries.  Toss with sugar and let sit in a strainer over a bowl for a couple of hours.  If you have more than 2 oz. juice, heat on the stove in a small saucepan until reduced.  If not, puree the berries in a blender or food processor with juice and the lemon juice until smooth.

To make the crust:  Preheat oven to 350°.  Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, butter, and cinnamon and press into the bottom of a 9" springform pan.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Let cool while you make the filling.

Combine the cream cheese and sugar in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until smooth.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of bowl as needed.  Blend in the vanilla and salt.  Mix in the sour cream until well incorporated.  Blend in the strawberry puree.

Place a baking pan filled with hot water on the bottom rack of the oven.  Pour the batter into the crust.  Place in the center of the oven. Bake for 55 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the oven but maintain the oven temperature.  To make the topping, place the chocolate in a small bowl.  Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan.  Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes.  Whisk until smooth.  Whisk in the egg.  Spread the topping mixture over the still hot cheesecake, being careful not to pour it all in one place.  Smooth the top with a spatula if necessary.  Bake 12-15 minutes, until the topping is set around the edges.  Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire cooling rack.  Cover with a large bowl inverted over the top to help cool slowly.  When it comes to room temperature,  transfer to the refrigerator.  Chill at least 8 hours before unmolding form the springform pan - and be sure the topping is completely set before covering with plastic wrap.  Transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with sliced strawberries and blueberries, if desired.  Slice with a thin knife run under hot water and wiped dry between slices.
Drizzle with leftover strawberry puree if desired.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Pistachio Fluff Fruit Salad

This delightful fruity fluffy dessert/salad stuff certainly defies most of my nutritional requirements for something healthy to feed my family, but it is so delicious and addictive, I can't resist making it once in awhile.  I've made it for MOPS gatherings several times and it is always a hit, and it was quickly devoured at the church potluck I made it for recently.

One of the things I like about it is its versatility.  You can substitute fruit cocktail and/or chunks of pineapple for some of the oranges, add sliced bananas or diced apples if you wish, stir in nuts or coconut if you want.....or not.  I like it with lots of mandarin oranges, but that's just me.  My girls especially love it too.

Recipe: (from Allrecipes)

1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple with juice
1 (3 oz) pkg. instant pistachio pudding mix
1 (12 oz) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
2 cups miniature marshmallows
3 (11 oz) cans mandarin oranges, drained
1/4 c. flaked coconut
chopped pecans, optional

In a large bowl, stir together crushed pineapple and pudding mix until well mixed.  Fold in whipped topping.  Add marshmallows, oranges, and coconut if desired.  Stir well.  Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Top with chopped nuts before serving if desired.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cake

When we were visiting Arkansas and my family in April, I decided that since I hadn't had a real "birthday" cake the previous week, I should make something huge and ridiculously outrageous that I would never make for just our family because Grant and I would gain 10 lbs. each in the process.  This cake had caught my eye months earlier and I knew that everyone in my family loves peanut butter and chocolate, so this seemed to be the ideal choice.
It was met with quite positive reviews, I have to say.  The cake itself wasn't my favorite - maybe it was because I used powdered buttermilk with water instead of the real thing, or maybe I over baked it a tad - at any rate, I think next time I'll substitute coffee for the buttermilk.
The frosting - ohhhhhhhhhhh, the frosting.  It is heaven in a bowl.  My sister Anna made it - she made a double batch, which ended up being too much for the cake, but the leftovers were readily eaten with graham crackers as snacks over the next few days.  So so so good.

Recipe: (cake from Annie's Eats, frosting from Ina Garten)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. buttermilk (or 1 cup brewed coffee)
4 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Frosting: (This is the regular batch - we doubled it and had a lot leftover, which wasn't a bad thing!)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 bag Miniature Reese's cups, halved and or chopped

For the cake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°.  Butter two 9" round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.  Place the pans on a baking sheet.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt  Set aside.

In a large mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for about 2 minutes, until thoroughly blended into the butter.  Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Beat in the vanilla.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and add teh dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk (or coffee); add the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the buttermilk in 2 (beginning and ending with the dry ingredients).  Mix each addition only  until it is blended into the batter.  Scrape down the bowl and add the melted chocolate, folding it in with a spatula. Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans.

Bake for 26-30 minutes or until the cakes feel springy to the touch and start to pull way from the sides of the pans.  Transfer to wire racks to cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners.  Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.

To make the frosting, place the powdered sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on the cake stand.  Spread peanut butter frosting on top of the cake layer.  (If desired, sprinkle with chopped Reese's cups).  Place the second cake layer on top of the frosting.  Frost the top and outside of the cake with remaining frosting.  Decorate with halved and chopped Reese's cups as desired.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Flower Cupcakes

Aren't these just too cute?

Yeah, I thought so too.  They're very easy to make and everyone will love them.

I took the easy route and just used cake mixes for the cupcakes, but you're certainly welcome to substitute your favorite cake recipe. 

I did not, however, resort to using store-bought frosting (which you are welcome to do, I won't judge!) because everytime I look at the ingredient list, I just cannot force myself to buy it.  And I think home-made tastes SO much better anyways. 
I did use more shortening than butter this time, because the cupcakes were for an outdoor picnic and the temperature was about 1,000° or something close to that and all-butter frosting would have dripped right off.  Ick.  Normally I use a ratio of 1:1.  Anyways.

Oh, and you're welcome to use gumdrops for the centers of the flowers if you desire, but I despise gumdrops and just could not get myself to pay money for them no matter how cute they looked, so I just piped frosting in the center of the flowers.  Extra frosting  = way better than gumdrops.  Amen.

Recipe: (idea adapted from McCormick)

1 cake mix, plus ingredients called for on box (eggs, oil, water)
1 batch frosting*
desired food colorings
1 bag large marshmallows (I used white ones and pink ones)
colored sprinkles or decorating sugar

Combine cake mix as directed on box and bake as cupcakes.  Cool completely. 
If tops are rounded, carefully slice off the tops to create a flat surface.  This helps the flower petals stay on better.
Frost the cupcakes with green frosting.
Using kitchen scissors, snip large marshmallows into 4 pieces.  Dip the cut (and sticky) side into sprinkles.
Place 5 marshmallow pieces (petals) onto each cupcake to look like a flower.  Pipe a contrasting colored frosting for the center (I used Wilton tip 17) or use gumdrops if you want.

*Frosting recipe: (if cupcakes will be outside in hot weather, increase the shortening and decrease butter proportionately)
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
4 cups powdered sugar
2 t. vanilla
1/8 t. salt
2 oz. heavy cream or whole milk

Cream butter and shortening in an electric mixer on high for 10 minutes.  It should be light and fluffy and greatly increased in volume.  Gradually add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time and mix well.  Add vanilla and salt, then add cream or milk and beat until even more fluffy.  Cover with a damp cloth when not in use.  Can be refrigerated for a couple of weeks  - just re-beat before using.

This post is linked to Picnic Recipes: a 4-Moms Link-Up
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