Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Slumber Party Donuts

When I was a kid, we made these easy donuts every time we had a sleep-over! They are made from refrigerated biscuit dough.  My mom always cooked them in Crisco- right in the big metal Crisco can. We always coated them in powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.  I have made them from time to time, but lately they have been the go-to when we have a sleep-over.  We have been experimenting with different oil, temperature and toppings/glaze.  I have tried making the dough from scratch and have had more fails than successes.  
I was hoping to *perfect* simple donut-making before I posted them, but I decided to let go of perfection and post these.  The best part is that they are inexpensive, super easy and so fun to get the family (or friends) involved.  In a few minutes you can make dozens of donuts (and you never have to change out of your pajamas)!
4 pack of refrigerated biscuit dough
Coconut oil
Powdered Sugar
a little milk

Using a small circle cutter, cut out the middle of the biscuit (or a good cap to a bottle that has a nice clean edge).  Depending on the diameter of your biscuit and the size of your circle cutter, you might need to pat out the biscuit dough a little bit with your hand.  Set these aside, near the stove top.  

In a deep (but not large) bowl, combine 2 cups or so of powdered sugar in a bowl with drops of water, drizzles at a time, stirring between until the glaze is the consistency desired- liquid but not too thin.
In a medium sized pot, scoop in enough coconut oil to make a 3 inch (or so) deep bath.  Heat on medium high burner until simmering. (Don't let it get to a rolling boil.) 

With a platter lined with several paper towels and a large slotted spoon or tongs in hand, begin gently sliding the dough into the hot oil.  (You can put as many at a time in the oil as will fit, as long as they don't touch the sides of the pan or each other.) Let them cook a minute or two, but watch closely! Once you can tell that the underneath is becoming brown, it's time to flip.  The second side is usually faster. Once you have cooked on both sides and they have browned, carefully lift them out of the oil and tap to leave behind excess oil.  Then promptly place on the towel-lined plate.  

Continue to cook more dough, carefully watching, turning and draining.

Have another person be the "glazer", where they dredge the donut through the glaze and flip to coat. After tapping off excess glaze, place on a drying rack on top of a baking sheet (lined with parchment paper for easy clean up).   

OR you can shake in a paper sack filled with powdered sugar for Powdered Sugar donuts, or granulated sugar or cinnamon & sugar.  

Get creative and try different things! We have tried sprinkling glazed donuts with sprinkles.  We even used a syringe and piped them with raspberry jam.  

You really can't go wrong.  I just recommend you eat them immediately.  They really don't taste great the next day, sadly. 

These are not fancy (by any means) but they are fun and cheap and tasty.   

Nothing like THESE incredible creations! (Nashville/Franklin has a local donut chain that re-defines donuts.  Five Daughters Bakery serves the richest, most decadent, 100-layer croissant-donuts filled with amazingly buttery, sugary toppings.  If you are local, or visiting Nashville, you should make the stop.  I have only taken my kids one at a time because the cost is prohibitive and they are over the top.) 

And these are photos from my FAILED and messy attempt at Old Fashioned from-scratch donuts.  I am open to any tips you have to offer.  I want to find a way to make quick, yet tasty, dense from-scratch donuts but after several fails I have returned to using biscuit dough and letting the experts do the rest!

So next time you have a slumber party, or a vacation, or have a craving for donuts, buy some refrigerated biscuit dough and whip up some donuts... and life-long memories while you're at it. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Southwestern Chopped Kale Salad

This summer my friend Melissa and I met up with our families at the pool for an evening swim and were swapping summer salad recipes, because that is what we do when we get together.  We are always looking for yummy, fresh, new recipes that can be simply done and made ahead.  This one is a winner.  She was inspired by a recipe from a blog but then she tweaked it so much, I think it is absolutely fair to call it her creation!

I have made it multiple times this summer and wanted to post it but haven't had/taken the time to get it written. But before the fresh corn is gone for the year, I knew I must post it.

The first time I made it, I was meeting my friend Jennifer and her kids at their community pool and I wanted to make a yummy salad that my kids and I could eat and that would be a treat for Jennifer too. So, I made it that morning instead of packing up sandwiches. When it was lunch break and we pulled out our food, I opened my container of salad and started chopping up an avocado to mix in.  Two other mommas near us peered over and one said, "YUM! What is that? That looks good!"  I told her what was in it and that it was my friend's creation that I was trying out for the first time.

I scooped up some on a little plate and handed it to this unknown pool lady for her to try.  She gratefully accepted it.  She gobbled it up and said she would try making it at home.

From --> friends swapping recipes at the pool --> to -->  friends sharing salad at another pool --> to --> salad and recipe sharing with strangers --> and so it goes!

I loved that she was outgoing enough to inquire about the salad- it was fun to share a recipe and a taste test with pool strangers.  (If you are reading this, kind lady at the Nolensville pool, I'm finally posting the recipe!)

This salad is versatile and one of the benefits of kale is that it is a sturdy green, and therefore can be made ahead of time! (Just stir in the avocado right before serving.)

it just takes some chopping 

the corn makes it nutty and hearty
Southwestern Chopped Kale Salad
   from Melissa Broadwell

8 cups chopped fresh kale

1/2 bunch of chopped cilantro

2 chopped green onions
(red would be good too)

1 container of chopped grape tomatoes quartered (or 2 diced larger tomatoes)

1 finely chopped jalepeno pepper (with seeds removed)

2-3 cobs of corn (depending on how big they are)- steamed or microwaved and cut off the cob

1 cup cooked quinoa

1-2 avocados (depending on size and how much you love it)

Crumbled tortilla chips for crunchy topping

Simple Lemon Dressing:
The juice of one lemon and 1/4 cup olive oil, kosher salt and pepper swirled together.

Stir together all ingredients (besides the dressing and crumbled tortilla chips)

the quinoa can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator
Add dressing drizzle by drizzle until fully incorporated and the right amount of wet.  Add avocado just before serving.  Stir in well and then top with the crumbled chips.


As always, tweak as you like, and add some meat or beans in the salad or make this a side and serve with a piece of meat. We served it once with Italian sausage and once with sautéed shrimp.

The pools are closed now in our community for the most part, as Labor Day has passed, but the Southwestern Kale Salad is still going strong.  Hope you find it as tasty and satisfying as we have!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mexican Street Corn and Verde Chicken Enchiladas- A Favorite This Summer

About this time 7 years ago I was facing the end of summer, the time that I feel as a teacher and mom is the most probable time to do a hobby if any time, and yet, alas, I hadn't found the time to make it happen! With kids ages 1, 4 & 6 the odds were against me for launching into new creative projects. And I felt discouraged and frustrated.  But I didn't want to just give up this hope! So, the idea came to me of doing a food blog- to give me a creative outlet that I could do as part of my everyday life.

I can't believe this is my 200th post! The first couple of years I was able to crank out a post a week and then my pace slowed down as the new recipes became less frequent and life's demands only increased! It has been such a treat to have a creative outlet that is doable. However, there have been times I have felt discouraged, thinking "there are a million food blogs out there, why am I doing this?!" But then I'll write a post and it feels fun to write and photograph and share and I remember that this is my quilting, or water coloring that I don't have the time to do right now.  Or I hear from a friend that something on my blog was a hit in their home or was a help to them when hosting friends, and I feel encouraged to press on!  Or I evaluate my life and think, "this is an OPTIONAL thing in my life, as opposed to most of the other commitments that are required of me.  And then I have to tell myself, "that's exactly why you should  do this. It's a's a creative's not an assignment or job."  So thank you for being a part of this journey! I am grateful.

For this 200th post, I wanted to share with you 2 yummy new recipes.  I have been making these for a couple of months, taking photos and working out the kinks! So, here they are:

Elote (Mexican Street Corn) and Chicken Verde Enchiladas!

Elote was just introduced to me a couple of years ago and now whenever I see it on a menu I can't resist ordering it! I first had it at Butchertown Hall, and then at Green Hills Grille and then at the Little Donkey. Yum, yum and yum.  I found a recipe that looked like what I enjoyed at these restaurants and made it at home.  It's grilled corn on the cob rolled in a cheesy, creamy sauce, sprinkled with chili powder, garlic and cilantro and served with a lime squeezed on top. Often times it is served on a stick or with the husks pulled down to create a handle.  This makes it much less messy, to make and to eat, though I made these in the photograph without a handle. (Lesson learned the messy way)

Mexican Street Corn

4 cobs of corn

1/4 cup mayonaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup finely crumbled cotija or feta cheese, plus more for serving
1/4 tsp. chili powder (plus more for dusting on top)
1/4 tsp. chipotle chili powder (plus more for dusting on top)
1 medium clove garlic, finely minced (about 1 tsp.)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems

1 lime- cut into wedges                
Shuck 4 cobs of corn and wash thoroughly, removing the silks as much as you can.

Grill the Corn: Rub them with olive oil and place them on a hot grill. Cook until kernels are soft and there is a little but not too much char - turning and rotating for about 8 minutes  Meanwhile make the sauce.

Sauce: Mix together mayonaise through cilantro. stir well.

Use a spoon to scoop and smooth corn with sauce on all sides. Sprinkle with a little extra cheese and chili powder and serve immediately with lime wedges.

The Verde Chicken Enchiladas were inspired by The Raines boys (young friends from church). I was bringing a meal for their family when they welcomed home a new brother this summer and they requested enchiladas. I thought I would fill them with chicken and wanted a cream sauce that wasn't complicated but was fresh and tangy, made with verde salsa.  I poked around and came upon this recipe from one of my notebooks (my Pinterest before there was Pinterest notebooks that I wrote about HERE).  I believe it's from Southern Living many years ago (based on what I remember about the font of the torn out magazine page). They were so simple and yummy.  We made a trial run first and I used a Hatch Green Salsa from Trader Joes because, well, the packing was cool.  I'm a sucker for great packaging.  But we decided it was too spicy for kids.  So next time I went for a basic Salsa Verde. 

Makes 8 small enchiladas
3 cups chopped cooked chicken (roasted, rotisserie, baked, however you like it)
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack or Mexican Mix cheese (1/4 cup reserved for sprinkling on top)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 (4.5 ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
8 taco size corn tortillas
Sauce for top:
1 8oz. container of sour cream
1 8 oz. jar of tomatillo (verde) salsa

Stir together first 5 ingredients.  Warm tortillas in the microwave with a damp paper towel around them for a minute to soften them so as to not break. Spoon chicken mixture evenly down center of each tortilla, and roll up.  Arrange seam side down in a lightly greased 13 X 9 inch baking dish. Coat tortillas with cooking spray.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese on top.

Bake at 350˚ for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Stir together 8 oz. sour cream and salsa.  Spoon over hot enchiladas; sprinkle with desired toppings.

I served this with black beans- made from canned black beans drained, rinsed, with water added.  I sautée onions & garlic, add the beans, some cumin and kosher salt.
a little simple green salad dressed with a swirl of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and salt and pepper.

I think the salad is a nice accompaniment to the rich, creamy corn and enchiladas!

Some of us pursue creativity more than others, but I believe that we all need creative outlets in our lives.  As Brené Brown's research has proved, cultivating creativity is one of the guideposts of Whole-Hearted Living! She says,
  • "I'm not creative" doesn't work. There is no such thing as creative people and non-creative people.  There are only people who use their creativity and people who don't.  Unused creativity doesn't just disappear.  It lives within us until it's expressed, neglected to death, or suffocated by resentment and fear.
  • As long as we are creating, we are cultivating meaning.  -from The Gifts of Imperfection   

Let's use our creativity!!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Mini Cinis! (Quick Mini Cinnamon Rolls)

I am a fan of cinnamon rolls!  And the smell of them in the oven is irresistible! I have always marveled that Cinnabon Cinnamon Roll shops need not market their goods, as long as they keep baking the rolls in the mall.  The smell lures people in!

As much as I love cinnamon rolls,  I often do not have the time to devote to yeast-based cinnamon roll making! So, these quick little treasures are a good stand in! They are made with canned refrigerated crescent rolls and are therefore super fast and easy while still being flaky and tasty.

I like making mini-muffins and mini versions of things so that less is wasted and people can get as much as they want (1 or 2 or my son did)! Also, when hosting a gathering, I prefer to serve minis so that guests can have a taste of a lot of different things.

There are several variations of this recipe swirling around the internet and in cookbooks- some with butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar.  I tried this one which doesn't call for butter and they were great (since there is plenty of butteriness in the crescent rolls already). So, feel free to play around with the recipe and adapt to your liking! You can add more cinnamon or chopped nuts inside, or even orange zest. This is just the basic recipe to get you started.

Here's how to make them:

Mini Cinis
(makes about 28 itty bitty rolls)

for the rolls-
1 package (8 oz) refrigerated crescent rolls
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 heaping Tbsp. ground cinnamon

for the frosting- 
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
A spoonful or so of milk (or enough to achieve desired consistency)

for the top-
a few pinches of coarse salt to sprinkle on top after drizzling with frosting (because salty sweet is always a win)
chopped pecans if you choose

Preheat oven to 350˚. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Unroll crescent roll dough onto a baking mat or another piece of parchment paper.  Separate into 4 rectangles. Firmly press diagonal perforations with your fingers to smooth them out.

Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl.
Sprinkle mixture evenly over rectangles- leaving a 1/2 inch margin around the edge (so that the dough can stick to itself when you roll it).
Carefully roll each rectangle into a log starting from the longer side. 
Cut each log into 1/2 thick slices.  
 Arrange mini cinnamon rolls close to one another on the baking sheet.

 Bake the mini cinnamon rolls in the preheated oven until golden, 10 to 13 minutes.  Transfer onto a plate and set aside to cool for a minute. 
Combine the confectioner's sugar, vanilla and milk in a measuring cup until smooth and a pourable (but not too thin) consistency. Drizzle over warm rolls.  Sprinkle with a little coarse salt (and pecans if you are adding those).

a double batch- minus the handful my son snagged
 This is a simple 
recipe I couldn't resist passing along to you.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Nothing Says Summertime Like Key Lime Pie (a recipe worth Re-Posting)

This is a re-post from 5 years ago.  It's a perennial favorite.  It is summertime deliciousness! 

I believe that little things can make a big difference.  It might only take a few more minutes, or a couple more dollars (or not any more $$ at all) – just a little time, creativity and intentionality, and you can greatly enhance the beauty and enjoyment of things.
For example:
>Use a pretty tablecloth or cloth napkin whenever you can (some of my favorites I got at thrift stores and antique stores).  It can add such a nice touch.

>Instead of pens rolling around in your junk drawer, why not put them in a fun jar on the table?

>On a nice evening when a friend comes by, why not light some candles outside and sit for your visit?  (It can feel magical!)

>Or keep a dish of yummy seasonal candy on your office desk to share with those who pass by.

>When you have a meeting to attend, make some cookies or muffins to take with you.

>Place a pretty napkin in a basket when serving muffins.

>Write a handwritten note of love, thanks, or well wishes to someone.

>Have a small vase of fresh flowers in the room for your spend-the-night guest.

>Sprinkle coarse sugar on top of your muffins.

>Use fresh garlic &/or herbs in place of dried when cooking.

>When hosting a gathering, make little tents out of card stock with labels of "de-caf" or "regular" on your coffee or specific titles of the foods being served.

You get my point?  All these things are little things but they can really add beauty, creativity and fun to the ordinary.  I would love to know what special little things you think make a big difference!

I was thinking about all of this as I was making Key Lime Pie this week.  As I made it, I was thinking about how much homemade graham cracker crust and whipped cream for really takes this pie up a notch. Such a small investment for a big difference!

Key Lime Pie.
It is many people's favorite summertime dessert.
The filling is so creamy and tangy and the crust is sweet and buttery.  The whip is so light and fluffy.
I love it in the summer, or when we have Mexican food, or fish or really anytime of day, with any menu.
It is such a simple, timeless recipe.

I don't know if you have made many Key Lime Pies, or have eaten many.  But making a graham cracker crust takes about 5 minutes and the result is a crumbly, buttery, golden crust that you want to just eat by itself!  Buying a Keebler crust is more expensive and just can't compare to the crunchy buttery goodness of a homemade one.  And whipping cream is super simple and it typically costs no more to buy whipping cream than to buy Cool Whip.  And it is so much better (and not filled with a long list of chemical ingredients).

Key Lime Pie
1 1/2 cups Graham Cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 stick (4 Tbsp. melted butter)

For a normal or deep dish pie pan:
2 cans Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 cup Key Lime Juice
6 egg yolks

{OR for a smaller aluminum pie pan}:
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/2 cup Key Lime Juice
3 egg yolks

Make Graham Cracker Crust – I put graham crackers in a ziplock bag and crush them with my fist, or with a mallet.  (You can make them as fine or coarse as you like). Stir together ingredients for the crust.  Combine until well incorporated.  Press into a lightly greased pie pan – reserving one spoonful for tasting (okay, you don't have to, but I can't ever resist!) Place crust into oven and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

In a separate bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the filling. Stir until consistent and smooth. (Hang on to the egg whites, as you can use them in another recipe or have them on hand for breakfast egg whites). Pour filling into crust.  Return to oven for 10 minutes (just to "kill" the raw egg).  Let sit on counter for 10 minutes to cool a bit.  Place in refrigerator for 4 hours or more – until set and cold.

whipped cream
Make whipped cream: 
Pour 1 pint of whipping cream into mixing bowl and let it go full speed for a few minutes until thickened and peaks remain when you pull out the beater. (Watch it or you will have butter in your bowl!) Add a hefty spoonful or two of sugar and voila! 

There you have it!
It doesn't get any better than this simple pleasure – it's the little things!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

So-Good Brownies- A Recipe to Pass Along

This is a brownie recipe recently added to my collection and I am smitten. My mom made these brownies for my birthday this year.  She said she wanted to bake for my birthday but that she knows Dave enjoys the tradition of making me a birthday cake.  (I enjoy this tradition too!)  I suggested she make brownies or cookies since I love those too, and why not have brownies and cake!  

She ended up making cookies for dessert on the night we ate together for my birthday a few days before my actual day.  They were chocolate chip with pecans- one of my favorites.  They were beautiful and delicious! Then on my actual birthday, my dad came to a meeting on campus and surprised me with a plate of brownies (cut heart-shaped) and topped with chopped pecans.  They were amazing! There were too many for me to take home (since I knew cake was going to be at home), and not enough to take to class to share with my students.  So I shared them with my colleagues.  They were glad I did.

Tanya, the custodian who cleans our area, happened to be in the office at the time and I offered her one.  She gladly accepted.   A few days later I saw her in the hall and she said it was the best brownie she had ever had, and that she had saved part of it to share with her twin sister, Tonya.  (Yes, they are twins named Tonya and Tanya. She told me that it was the labor and delivery nurse’s idea to name them one vowel different when her mom had twins that she wasn’t anticipating!) According to Tanya, Tonya LOVES  brownies.  She said Tonya didn’t believe that the brownie was not from a bakery. She asked if she could buy some from my mom! I said, “You can’t buy them, but I will make them for you and give you the recipe.” 

I called my mom and told her how much we enjoyed them and asked for the recipe.  I went ahead and made a few copies of it when she passed it along.

A week or so later I made a batch and brought a box of them to work for her.  I couldn’t find her in the halls so I left it on my desk with the recipe and a note, as I knew she would come early in the morning to collect trash from my office. I ran into her several weeks later and she told me that they have been making this recipe a lot since I passed it along. So fun.  

This recipe is from The Southern Living SEC Tailgating Cookbook.  and has a side bar that says, “Go ahead and copy the recipe to give to friends at your tailgate.  They’ll be asking for it.” I think they are right.  They are chewy, thick, rich and lovely.  What sets them apart from other brownie recipes I make are brown sugar, unsweetened baking squares, and lots and lots of butter (not that this part is unique to this brownie recipe). 

Makes 16  2 inch square brownies

4 (1 oz.) unsweetened chocolate baking squares
¾ cup butter 
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 large eggs 
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350˚. Line bottom and sides of an 8 inch square pan with aluminum foil, allowing 2 to 3 inches to extend over side; lightly grease foil.

Microwave chocolate squares and butter in a large microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 ½ to 2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30 second intervals. Whisk in granulated and brown sugars.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, whisking just until blended after each addition.  Whisk in flour, vanilla, and salt. 

Pour mixture into prepared pan.

Bake at 350˚ for 40 to 44 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted comes out with a few moist crumbs.  Let cool completely on a wire rack. Lift brownies from pan, using foil sides as handles.  Gently remove foil, and cut brownies into 16 squares.  

(Note: this makes a 8 inch square pan, which I thought seemed small, but found that they are rich and thick! I have, however, doubled the recipe a few times when feeding a larger crowd.  This really spotlights the amount of butter, sugar and chocolate are in these lovely brownies!)

I am thankful when sharing a baked good and recipe can connect people to each other. You might want to make a batch and take them to work, or pass them to your neighbors (or tailgate- if you are are tailgater), and show some love via butter, chocolate and lots of sugar! And be ready with the recipe to pass it along. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Sunshine Kale Salad

I have a new recipe! It's like a Broccoli Raisin Salad/Kale Salad mash up. It was inspired by a salad we had at a restaurant recently. This is my attempt to recreate it. Dave and I went to Chattanooga several weeks ago for an overnight getaway! (A very rare occurance!) I haven't been there in years. What a great city! We loved it.

We went to Urban Stack, a local, cool, burger place our friends the Joneses recommended. We of course wanted to get a burger and fries, but this Sunshine Kale Salad on the menu looked really good. Dave suggested we split both...which is my favorite.  We got an incredible burger (with bacon, gruyère/ bleu cheese, and an onion compote) and fries.  
The salad was also so good and unique.  I tried to memorize it. I took a picture and when we got home I started looking up dressing recipes and merging a few to create this one.

Sunshine Kale Salad
(4-6 servings)
inspired by Urban Stack in Chattanooga, TN

the dressing (sweet onion vinaigrette)
makes more than enough- but you can save and use on another salad

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water (just to lighten in up)
1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 cup sugar (or honey or agave nectar)
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 small onion (chopped)

Finely chop onion in the blender.  Add all other ingredients EXCEPT oil.  Blend together until well incorporated and onion fully blended.  While blending, slowly add in oil until all well blended.

the salad
4 cups fresh broccoli -finely chopped
4 to 6 stalks of Kale washed, removed from the stalk and coarsely torn
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup sweetened flake coconut
1 mango- chopped
1/2 cup (or more) crumbled feta

Grilled chicken, optional (see HERE or HERE for recipes/instructions for that)

Prep salad ingredients (washing, chopping, etc.) Add diced chicken if including it.
Drizzle some of the dressing on top.  Toss it in and add more dressing as needed to reach desired taste.
You can make it ahead of time or serve immediately.  If serving it later, you might want to stir, taste, and add a touch more dressing before serving. Tweak as you wish- add, delete or alter portions to your liking.

Summer is upon us! Summer feels like salad season to me! I love to have salad as a main dish for dinner and my favorite lunches are prepared salads that can be made and kept in the refrigerator to be pulled out at lunchtime.  It's also Summer Reading time and I have made my annual Summer Reading Stack.  It's a little too ambitious- and some are from last year that I never read, or at best never finished, and there are many more that have been added to the stack.  In fact, I keep adding more books to the stack.  It's about to topple over.  If you are interested in meeting to talk about any of these books (if you too have read them or want to read them), let me know!