Banana Yogurt Popsicles

Banana Popsicles1

Whenever summer comes around, I get really nostalgic for my childhood. I know I’m probably not the only one to feel this way, but I feel like summer time was just so much more awesome when I was younger.

Of course, this may have something to do with the fact that it was at a time when I was still in elementary school (and thus on summer vacation), and also was too young to have a job (that has no summer vacation). Still, childhood summertime nostalgia is the best. Here are just a few memories that I have:

Banana Popsicles4

Back when Will Smith was still rapping (and also The Fresh Prince of Bel Air), he came out with a song called “Summertime”. Yes, I still listen to it now every summer. It’s a classic. It never gets old.

Please tell me there’s someone out there that remembers when this commercial used to come on The Disney Channel. It was  back when The Disney Channel was actually good to watch.

I remember when Nick at Nite used to come on after Nickeldeon shows were over late at night. During the summer, there was this special marathon of shows that came on called the Nick at Nite Block Party Summer. Each night featured a different show; the Munsters were on Mondays, I Love Lucy was on Tuesdays, Bewitched was on Wednesdays, I Dream of Jeannie was on Thursdays (I didn’t watch Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie, but I still remember them), and Friday was for The Brady Bunch. It may have seemed weird for a 9 year old to like watching shows that old, but for some reason I was just addicted to the Nick at Nite Block Party Summer.

Banana Popsicles2

Summertime meant that my grandpa would go and buy watermelons from the grocery store at least once a week that we could all eat. I can’t even think of how much watermelon I used to eat. It was a lot, suffice to say.

I remember playing outside when it was hot. Me and my sisters would turn our frisbees upside down and fill them up with grass, weeds, dandelions and other yard waste. We chopped them up together and pretended we were cooking some kind of food dish (no, we didn’t eat it). Then when the sun set and it became cool, we caught fireflies and ate popsicles.

Banana Popsicles5

The popsicles I ate when I was younger were mostly the red, white, and blue Turbo Rocket ones that were mostly just made of sugar and water and turned your tongue and lips different colors. Now that I’m older, I find that my popsicle palate (if that’s even a real thing) has become somewhat more ‘refined’…or just pickier. I still get cravings for popsicles- I just want them to be a little more complex than the ones I was glad to settle for when I was younger.

I’d been meaning to buy popsicle molds for a while now, but they’re just one of those things that you continually walk past in the store telling yourself, “One of these days, I’ll getcha.”

And then you never do. Except this time, I did, if for nothing else, than to make me come up with recipes to use them for this summer. Today’s post is the first of what I hope will be a nice, delicious collection of popsicle recipes.

Banana Popsicles3

This recipe was inspired by one of my favorite recipes: Southern Banana Pudding. I hope to God you guys have had at least one good Southern Banana Pudding in your life. If you haven’t, then you’re really missing out  and I really do feel sorry for you- cause it is that serious. Rest assured, I will be sharing my grandma’s banana pudding recipe on the blog, but for now let’s just stick with these popsicles.

I think that the one thing that turns me off about most standard issue popsicles today is just that they’re either really, really, really, sweet or just really, really, really watered down and bland. I wanted to alleviate both of these problems in my popsicles, especially given that they’re inspired by banana pudding, which shouldn’t be too sweet or watery in and of itself. The yogurt base really gives these a smooth, but robust and creamy taste that’s further enhanced by the mashed bananas. I added the vanilla wafers to the recipe to give them even more texture to compliment the smoothness of the yogurt base and to add to the banana pudding inspiration.

There is one way that this recipe differs from both regular popsicles and Southern Banana Pudding, and that’s that these popsicles are actually healthy so far as ingredients go. They make for a really light, cold and satisfying snack or dessert for the hot summer days that are upon most of us nowadays. They’e also my contribution to this week’s Fiesta Friday #22 hosted by  Prudy@Butter, Basil and Breadcrumbs and Elaine@foodbod. Enjoy , guys 🙂

fiesta-friday-badge-button-i-party

***********************************

Banana Yogurt Popsicles

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp banana extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup finely crushed vanilla wafers, plus 3 tbsp, divided

Directions

1. Combine all ingredients except for 3 tbsp of crushed vanilla wafers in a bowl.

2. Sprinkle 2 tsp of crushed wafers into the bottom of your popsicle molds.

3. Pour in yogurt and banana mix, leaving a little bit of space in the top of the molds. Sprinkle the remainder of the crushed wafers over the top of the molds. Insert popsicle sticks and cover each mold with aluminum foil.

4. Place in freezer until hardened, a few hours. Remove and enjoy!

(Tip to remove popsicles from plastic molds: run molds underneath hot water or place molds into a bowl of hot water for about a minute. Gently tug on popsicles sticks, the popsicles should come out.)

 

 

Southern Smothered Potatoes and Onions

PotatoesandOnions1

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to begin today’s post by saying a few things that I love about the South (for my international friends, that’s the Southern USA).

First and foremost, Atlanta is in the South. Atlanta is one of my all time favorite places to go in the entire country. It’s a city full of energy, soul and entertainment. There’s nothing you can do, find or try in Atlanta (except for build a snowman, I’m pretty sure that won’t work.) Every time I visit Atlanta, I always realize how dull and unspectacular my own hometown is and I’m always sad when I have to come back up North to boring old Michigan. If I had a choice of where to live, Atlanta would be at the top of my list for sure.

Although some of us have migrated north, both of my parent’s families are from the South. So I’m a Northern girl with Southern roots. Maybe that’s why I always get sad when I leave Georgia…

PotatoesandOnions2

Three words, guys:

The.Waffle. House. We don’t have them in Michigan. This is simply unacceptable to me. Once you pass  over the old Mason Dixon Line, I swear there’s a Waffle House every two miles on the highway. They’re literally everywhere. True story: I didn’t used to like waffles very much. As a little kid, I had eaten more than my fair share of the cardboard-like, tasteless Eggo ‘waffles’ drowned in syrup to make them somewhat edible. I don’t know exactly why I did, maybe it was just apart of the 90’s Kid Rites of Passage. Anyway, it was traumatizing enough to put me off of waffles for years in lieu of My One True Love (pancakes). The one year, I was visiting my Aunt who lives near Atlanta, and she suggested that we go out for breakfast to a Waffle House so that we could try one of their “special recipe” waffles. I was skeptical. It was ‘just’ a waffle, right? How ‘special’ could it be, right?

That was what I thought then. Now? Well, now, I’m pretty convinced that the Waffle House “special recipe” for their waffles is injected with some kind of drugs. That’s the only way I can explain waffles being that friggin delicious and leave me always wanting more.

PotatoesandOnions4

Additional pluses for the South in my book: Disney World, Miami Beach, no snow storms that cause city-wide power outages over the holidays (see this post), amazing scenery, older AND younger men calling me “Ma’am” or “Darlin”, women calling me “Honey”.

Then there’s the accents. Random fact: if I spend a certain amount of time in the South, I will begin to pick up a Southern accent of my own. I  know it sounds weird, but I mean it. Before long, I’ll be dropping my ‘g’s and developing a drawl/twang and the whole she-bang. Again, that could just be my Southern roots calling me ‘home’.

PotatoesandOnions3

Then of course, there’s the food. Southern Cuisine has to be my favorite regional food to both eat and cook. There’s a reason why it’s called Soul Food, guys: you can literally taste the heart, soul and love that goes into it.

And in case you all didn’t know, in the South heart, soul and love usually translates into the 3 B’s: Bacon, Butter and Booze- not necessarily in that order. Personally, I don’t really consume much of these 3 ingredients on their own. I’m a lightweight when it comes to alcohol, I don’t like the taste of it, and it gives me a stomach ache- but will I still marinate a pork roast in whiskey? Oh yeah. Usually I try to sub out butter for healthier options when trying to sautee or flavor a dish, but there are some instances where nothing but butter will do, like when making pound cake and pie crust. Then I’m the Butter Queen.

Please don’t slaughter me when I say this: but I can really live without eating bacon on it’s own. Don’t get wrong: the smell is fantastic, but I can do without actually eating the finished product, regardless of whether it’s chewy or crisp. On the other hand; to me, bacon grease (the liquid stuff that gets leftover in the pan or skillet) may as well be the Nectar of the Gods. It’s everything. Everything that matters when cooking.

PotatoesandOnions5

One of the oldest, most priceless cooking tips that I learned from my true blue, Deep South, Mississippi born and bred grandma was this: save.your.grease.

Bacon grease. Chicken grease. Fish grease. After you’re finished cooking the proteins, don’t just throw it out. That’s bad. Strain it through a fine sieve to get out the bits, then pour it into mason jars and give them their own label. I’m serious. I know, it may sound weird (and maybe even a little nasty), but  trust and believe: you will thank me for this later. I watched my grandma do this for years without fully understanding why it was so valuable- then I started cooking for myself, and found out that she was a genius.

Drained grease (especially pork grease) does something for food that no ordinary, ground seasoning can even come close to. It’s…it’s almost like pure magic, guys. This dish completely proves my point. It originally started as a dish that we made up in my house for when my church was doing a fast that was kinda similar to the month of Catholic Lent, except we did ours during the month of January and the beginning of February. Usually, we just did things like give up eating solid meat, bread or sweets- nothing too serious, it’s more of the idea that counts in these cases. Anyway, my mom and my grandma made this dish quite a few times during the fast, as it’s a meal that’s delicious and satisfying enough to where you don’t even miss the meat at all.

PotatoesandOnions6

Now, I’ll be honest with you all: I was very light handed when it came to putting together this recipe because it’s just one of those things that I put together and season to personal taste. I’m very liberal when it comes to my seasonings, but I can admit that not everyone is like me, and as such, may have a completely different palate. So when it came to seasoning, what I did was give you all the ingredients that I put in the dish, then let you decide how much of it you want to add. As far as Garlic and Onion powder are concerned my advice would be to not be shy: it’s hard to add too much of those, so I usually add a liberal coating over the potatoes and onions, stir, then add another liberal coating and stir again. With salt and pepper, you’ll need to be more careful, as it’s much easier to over salt or over pepper a dish. Butter Buds are basically dried, powdered Butter flakes that make potatoes basically irresistible. It’s also a healthier alternative to using straight butter. They can be found in the spice aisle of grocery stores, and really are worth the buy if you can find them in your area.

 After they’re done cooking, the potatoes become tender on the inside and crisp on the outside, forming that delectable crust that reminds me of hash browns. The nearly caramelized onions should be limp and they really provide the perfect, slightly sweet complement to the saltiness of the potato. And to top it all off, there is a slight aftertaste of bacon thanks to the potatoes and onions being cooked in the liquid bacon grease.

You guys, this food is the South on a plate. It really speaks to my heritage and style of cooking, and just tastes phenomenal.

I decided to bring this to the Fiesta Friday party this week, hosted this week by Elaine@Foodbod and Julianna@Foodie On Board. Hope you guys like this little taste of the South 🙂

fiesta-friday-badge-button-i-party

********************************

Southern Smothered Potatoes & Onions

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup liquid bacon grease
  • 4 lbs russet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • Onion Powder to taste
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Butter Buds, to taste

 Directions

1. Heat a cast iron skillet or nonstick pan over medium high heat.

2. Drizzle about 2 tbsp of the bacon grease into the pan, swirl about to evenly cover the surface.

3. Add enough potatoes and onions to pan to fill up. (You will have to do this in multiple batches).Sprinkle a generous coating of the onion powder, garlic powder, and butter buds over the potatoes and onions. Stir to evenly coat, then add a little bit more if necessary.

4. Add the salt and pepper to the potatoes and onions (be a little less generous with these, I typically do about 1 tsp of each per batch).

5. Cover the pan and allow to cook until potatoes are brown, tender and slightly crisp at the edges, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking at the bottom of the skillet.

6. Repeat steps 2-6 in batches with the remaining potatoes and onions and serve.

 

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes

Vanilla Cupcakes1

Do any of you guys watch the show ‘Cupcake Wars’ on Food Network? It gets a pretty bad rap, but I still enjoy it. Apparently there are a good amount of other people that do too, because it’s been on for a few years now. I like to see the creative ideas that the competitors come up with for crazy ingredients, then I like seeing them create 3 of their own signature cupcakes with the different fillings and flavors and frostings. Of course it’s not a perfect show: for one, the host really gets on my nerves with his lame jokes at the different time markers throughout the competition. I feel like if one of the other Food Network personalities were hosting it, the show would be stronger. Just my opinion. This may be just me and my suspicious nature, but I’m not so sure that I buy the whole “1,000 Cupcake display” that they claim to make the competitors put together at the end for a special event. Maybe it’s a few hundred cupcakes, but  from what I’ve seen in most of the episodes, it really just doesn’t look like that many.

Vanilla Cupcakes3

Before I watched the show I didn’t know that there were such things as ‘cupcakeries’ that specialize in putting out gourmet style cupcakes. I blame it on my hometown. It’s lame when it comes to Foodie Culture. But even if we did have a cupcake bakery that sold $8.00 cupcakes, I’m not so sure that I would be bum-rushing the doors to get some every week. #1, when it comes to desserts, I don’t usually have extreme cravings for regular cake- pound cake is ALWAYS welcome, but my cravings for typical, moist cake are far in between. #2, I’m a simple girl when it comes to my favored cake flavors. My favorite type of cakes are a golden yellow cake with milk chocolate frosting, and  a french vanilla cake with white frosting- both of which I think would be a waste of money to buy at a cupcake bakery. If I buy something from there, I’ll probably try to get a wacky, loaded flavor like a caramel apple pie cupcake, or a banana pudding style one, or something like that. If I want a  normal, ‘plain’ cupcake, chances are I’m just going to make it myself.

Vanilla Cupcakes2

This may sound weird, but I actually really love it when people I know specifically ask me to make them something that they’re craving to eat. It makes me feel kinda special that they’re letting me feed the craving of something that they love.  Good food  makes us happy. When I serve someone good food, I get to be apart of making somebody happy- and even if the happiness is temporary, that’s not something I think should be taken for granted. We could all use a little bit more of making somebody else happy especially when so many of us struggle (and fail) to make ourselves happy. Focusing on other people’s happiness is a lot less trouble than focusing on our own, am I right? Of course right. One of my friends recently had a birthday and she wanted some vanilla cupcakes to celebrate it, so I was happy to make these for her.

Vanilla Cupcakes4

I’m really happy with how these turned out. The cake itself is moist, soft and golden. This was also my first time making real buttercream frosting, and I think it was  a huge success. It’s not like that lardy, crap that they make in store bought cupcakes that makes you want to barf and that you just end up scraping off- no, I’m pretty sure that this is the kind of frosting that you may even like more than the cupcake itself. Yep, it’s that good. And the nonpareils? Well they’re there because I think they look pretty and cute- just like the whole idea of cupcakes themselves.

These little babies are my contribution to this week’s Fiesta Friday, hosted by Fae@Fae’s Twist and Tango and Suzanne@apuginthekitchen. Every week I get so pumped about bringing my dish to this awesome link up, as well as getting the chance to see what everyone else has been up to in the kitchen to bring. Have a good weekend guys!

fiesta-friday-badge-button-i-party

******************************

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes

Recipe Courtesy of ‘Bake’ by Edward Gee

 CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 extra large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

Frosting

  • 1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
  • Nonpareil sprinkles, to decorate

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place 12 paper liners in a muffin pan.

2. Put the butter and granulated sugar in a bowl and beat together until pale and creamy. Gradually beat in the eggs and vanilla extract. Sift in the flour and baking powder, then fold in gently.

3. Divide the batter evenly among the paper liners and bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until risen and firm to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

4. To make the frosting, put the butter into a bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes, or until pale and creamy. Beat in the cream and vanilla extract. Gradually beat in the confectioners sugar and continue beating until the buttercream is light and fluffy.

5. Use a small spatula to swirl the frosting over the tops of the cupcakes. Decorate with sprinkles.

 

Dornish Garlic Strata

Strata1

Game of Thrones Series Week #7

I swear that every time I think I’ve seen the most dramatic Game of Thrones episode this season, the next one will come on, and I will be freshly stunned and shocked by the jaw dropping ending. I think this may be the best season yet, and from what I understand from my twin sister (who knows what’s going to happen with the story ahead of time), the best is still yet to come in the final two episodes we have left. There was a lot to recap from this past week’s episode- yes, even more than that last scene, which I’ll get to in a minute. So let’s review, shall we?

  • I find the romance between Grey Worm and Missandei to be cute. They definitely have chemistry between each other, and although I think they may be one of the sweeter couples in the GoT series, I can’t see that they have much of a future together. Unless Missandei is one of those women who don’t mind being in a relationship with a guy who’s been ‘handicapped’ (if you know what I mean), which she doesn’t seem to be for now. Peeping Tom or no Peeping Tom, she’s definitely into Grey Worm. Side note: the Mother of Dragons braids her servants hair and does Girl Talk in her spare time? Since when did this happen?

Strata3

  • Speaking of Daenerys, oh man, how about  her kicking Ser Jorah to the curb? I understand her suspicion of him now that she’s found out the truth about the poison, but I still feel like this may be her one, big ‘fatal error’ that sets things into motion towards her losing her shot at ever being able to take over the Iron Throne for herself. Whether she realizes it or not, Jorah was the best and truest friend that Daenerys has EVER had. Tywin Lannister certainly realizes it, and she’s playing right into his schemes to thwart all of her plans just because of one mistake that Jorah made years ago. All that he’s went through with Daenerys should have been more than enough for her to at least grant him the opportunity to properly explain himself to her and allow him to give his side of the story. Not only that, I’m also disappointed that she made the blunder of throwing him out of her country alive when he now has so little to lose and now, so much to get revenge on her for. Let’s not forget, Jorah still had sour grapes over her new dalliance with Daario Nahaaris. To be rejected by the woman you’ve loved, served, protected and stood by through thick and thin is hard enough for any man- but to then be kicked to the curb over 1 misunderstanding without even the chance to properly defend himself is probably going to be enough to send Jorah over the edge and straight into the enemy’s camp. He knows her mind, her secrets, the workings of her kingdom, army, and her plans. If Daenerys was really set on ridding herself of him, she should have just had him executed and let that be the end of it; Banishing Jorah is going to be the nails in her coffin, mark my words.

Strata2

  • You know, I’m definitely not going to say I’m thrilled about this turn of character for Sansa, but I’m also definitely not going to say that I don’t completely understand why she’s decided to stay on Littlefinger’s ‘good side’ and try to make herself an ally for him, and not a mere prey. She knows that he was obsessed with her mother, she saw him shove her aunt through the moon door without blinking an eyelash, she knows that he poisoned Joffrey- all with that cool, sneaky smile on his face. It took her a while, but our Sansa has finally grown up and seen the way that the world works. She knows she’s not tough or strong enough to take Littlefinger on as an enemy, but she obviously feels strong enough to try and play his (creepy/disgusting) infatuation with her as Catelyn’s daughter to her own advantage. I can’t say that I can see any other way for her to survive at this point. Women do what they have to do when they have to do it- it’s just the way things are. (Another side note: was I the only one reminded of Maleficent by Sansa’s new threads and hair job? Maybe it’s just because Angelina Jolie’s movie just came out, I don’t know. But she did  seem very reminiscent of of the Disney icon to me,)
  • In other news, Ygritte’s heart wasn’t completely demolished by Jon Snow’s diss as she was willing to let Gilly and her baby live. To be honest, I can’t wait to watch it freeze right back up when the two of them meet back up again. I don’t care how good a fighter he is; Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and that means that our Jon is in for SUCH a beat down when Ygritte gets her hands on him again.It’s bound to be epic.
  • Well, Theon turned his ‘faux’ performance out after all- resulting in more people dying and Ramsay Snow dropping the ‘bastard’ title from his name. Oh joy. Oh rapture. I’m sure this will go splendidly.

Strata4

  • And of course, there was the Trial By Combat. Oh man, what a scene. I’m trying to think of a more grisly, gruesome death scene in Game of Thrones up to this point (and we all know there have been plenty), but I’m coming up with blanks. Nothing tops Oberyn’s exit. Blegh. Here’s my take on the fight: Guys, I’m sorry, but this was doomed from the very beginning. You know why? Because Oberyn was going into this fight with his feelings. It was personal for him, and there’s always a much bigger risk when you fight with your feelings. I understand why he wanted to fight the Mountain; he wanted vengeance for his sister and her children. But it was this desire for vengeance that ended up getting him killed. Oberyn not only wanted to kill the man who killed his family, he wanted to get  a confession from both the killer and indict/humiliate the man who ordered the hit: Tywin Lannister. If he’d been satisfied with just killing the Mountain, he never would have gotten distracted enough to let him live long enough to force him to name Tywin as the mastermind behind the crime. He couldn’t afford to be that careless with that good (and huge) a fighter- it should have been a quick, clean, precise kill. Oberyn was obviously capable of doing that, but he wanted to kill the Mountain, he also wanted to humiliate the Lannisters. His own pride was ultimately his unfortunate downfall. God knows what Tyrion is going to do now that his champion is dead. I’m sorry to see Oberyn go; he was a very charismatic character, and I was touched by his devotion to avenging his sister’s rape and death.

Strata5

Because last week was our farewell to Prince Oberyn, I thought that I would dedicated this week’s dish to him. In thinking of aspects of Oberyn’s character, I obviously decided to draw on inspirations from his amorous, exotic nature, while also being substantive and delicious. (Yes, I did just use that word because Pedro Pascal = male deliciousness on a stick. Am I right? Of course right.)  What I came up was this strata recipe. What makes this an Oberyn recipe? The garlic and the eggs; both are considered to be ancient and modern aphrodisiac foods (you learn something new every day, huh?). I ate mine with jalapenos and salsa on top to give it that extra ‘Dornish’ kick; it was just as fantastic as it looked. This would make a great recipe for a brunch to feed a crowd, or an easy fix for a Breakfast for Dinner craving.

R.I.P. Prince Oberyn. You fought well. You (and your smoking hot accent) will be thoroughly missed.

Game of Thrones Series

Week 1: Pigeon {Chicken} Pies

Week 2: Winterfell Brown Bread

Week 3: Southron Spinach & Plum Salad

Week 4: Baratheon Smothered Pork Chops & Apple Gravy

Week 5: Lemon Cakes

Week 6: Dothraki Flat Bread

Week 7: Dornish Garlic Strata

*************************************

Dornish Garlic Strata

Recipe Adapted from Annie’s Eats and Ina Garten

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

For Garlic Oil:

  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

For Strata

  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1½ cups onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 (10 oz.) pkgs frozen chopped spinach, thawed & drained
  • 8 cups stale, cubed bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp garlic oil
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese (6 oz.)
  • 12 large eggs
  • 2¾ cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cup meat of your choice (sausage, chicken, bacon, ham)
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic & herb seasoning (like Mrs. Dash)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

 Directions

1. In a small saucepan, bring garlic and oil to a boil, then turn heat to low, and cook for 5 minutes, until garlic is lightly browned. Turn off heat and set aside. The garlic will continue to cook.

2. Remove garlic cloves from the oil & slice them. Place them in a bowl & pour the oil over them.

3. Place bread cubes in a bowl, and pour garlic oil over them. Toss to combine, set aside.

4. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add onions & peppers to pan and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the spinach, remove from the heat and set aside.

5. Butter the inside of a 2½-3 quart baking dish.  Layer the bottom of the dish with one third of the bread cubes.  Top with one third of the meat, one third of the spinach mixture and one third of each of the cheese.  Repeat these layers twice more with the bread, meat, spinach and cheese.

6. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, milk, onion powder, garlic/herb seasoning, paprika, and pepper.  Whisk together until blended.

7.  Pour the mixture evenly over the bread and spinach layered in the baking dish.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 8 hours or up to 1 day.

8. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.  Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Bake uncovered until puffed, golden brown and cooked through, 45-55 minutes.  Let stand at least 5 minutes before serving.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Triple Berry Slab Pie

Berry Slab Pie1

When was the last time that you did something that made you really, really, REALLY proud of yourself?

I remember the first time I tied my own shoes when I was a little girl; for a six year old, it was literally one of those moments when it seems like the clouds part and a ray of sunshine shines just on you. I was walking on air from that for days.

I played the lead in an 8th grade musical (“Once on This Island”, in case there are any theater nerds out there like me) and when the sound system suddenly and unexpectedly cut out, I sang my solo song completely accappella. And I nailed it. Got an ovation and everything. That made me feel pretty good.

I made Dean’s List for nearly every semester of my undergrad college years…all while holding down 2-3 jobs (I have no idea how I did this now that it’s over, by the way).

My mom has a specific, rare smile that when she gives me, makes me feel like I can do absolutely anything in the world.

There’s nothing wrong with having those moments of pride; most people spend too much time obsessed with the things that they haven’t done, or are doing wrong. I think we should think more about the things that we’re actually doing right. So why don’t we try to think of the last moment of extreme pride or satisfaction that we had because of something we did. Think of it, then give yourself a pat on the back. Do your own little personal victory dance. Go ahead- you deserve it.

Berry Slab Pie2

These days, most of my moments of pride or self-congratulations come from me doing something new and intimidating in the kitchen, so this exercise is pretty easy for me to do. I was proud the first time I cooked something that came out of a box. I was proud when I first made a yeast bread. I was proud when I first made my grandma’s caramel cake (just WAIT until I share that one with you all, you will die, go to Heaven, then come back to life just to eat it again. No, I’m serious.). Doing new things in the kitchen is such an easy stroke to my ego- there’s no shame in my game about that, either. It’s most likely the reason that I try to do it often.

This is one of those things that I’ve done that just made me feel friggin fantastic about myself, to the point where I felt like I had to share it with you. I’m still giving myself victory dances, high fives, pats on the back and major props for pulling this recipe off, guys. Not just because of how it tastes (which is enough on its own, believe me), it’s also because this is the very first time that I made my own from scratch pie-crust. A very big pie crust at that. As in a 15 x 10 inch double layer pie crust.

Berry Slab Pie3

Pie crust may seem like it’s not that big of a deal to pull off from scratch, but anyone who’s made one before will tell you that it’s actually more complicated than it sounds. Like biscuits, pie dough has to be handled with finesse and care, or there’s a huge potential to ruin it. Which is probably why I’ve avoided it so stubbornly for such a long time. Then I saw this article on Buzzfeed featuring something called ‘slab pie’ that basically changed everything for me.

I had never heard of baking a pie into a sheet pan before, but it seemed (and looked) like a fantastic idea. I mean, just say it out loud will you: Slaaaaaab… Piiiiiie. Doesn’t the sound of it just make you want a huge, thick slab of it all to yourself (pun intended)?

I certainly felt that way. Slab Pie was calling my name. I had to answer. The problem was, I would need a whole LOT of pie crust to pull it off- and I didn’t really feel like buying a whole bunch of store-bought pre-made pie crusts, then trying to roll them all together to make two 15 x 10 inch layers for both top and bottom of the pie. Not when I knew it would be cheaper and more efficient to just try to make them on my own.

I know that by now, you probably want some of this pie. You’re probably thinking about how much of the ingredients you already have at home. If you’ve never made pie crust before, you’re probably wondering if it’s really that difficult to pull off, or that easy to mess up. It’s okay guys. I’ve been in your shoes before. Let me walk you through this.

Berry Slab Pie5

If there’s anything I’ve learned from this experience, it’s that the single most important thing you can do in making  pie crust from scratch is this: freeze your butter.

Let me repeat: freeze… your…butter. Throw it in the freezer overnight. Leave it there until the very moment you’re ready to handle it. Don’t take it out an hour before you want to make the crust to ‘thaw’ or soften. It’s not necessary. All you’ll need to do with it, is use a box grater, then run the ice cold sticks of butter over the large grating grill so that it comes out the other side in solid, curly strands. These strands are going to become your best friends. Why? Because they’re what’s going to keep your pie crust nice and flakey to the point where it will melt in your mouth after it’s done baking, that’s why.. After the butter is grated, the pie crust is pretty simple to put together. If you’re not using a food processor, I would also recommend using a rubber spatula to work the dough together, as hands conduct unnecessary heat into the dough.

Berry Slab Pie6

Guys, this pie came out so good. Really, it did. The making of the pie crust was a little extra labor, but me and my entire family all agree: it was well worth the result. And even though the recipe yields a lot, I still wouldn’t be surprised if you still ran out of it. This is one of those foods that you don’t want to share. You just want to hog it all to yourself to make sure you get as much as possible. Could be why I’ve already made this twice: a triple berry version, as well as an all raspberry version. Both were delicious. Both are all long gone. Guess it’s gonna be time for me to make another one pretty soon, huh? I’m thinking caramel apple. Or maybe strawberry rhubarb. Or how about sour cherry?

I think my favorite part of slab pie is that the recipe makes so much- it’s perfect for a large crows for a barbecue, dinner party, or gathering. So, I’ve decided to bring this over to Fiesta Friday- hope you guys enjoy it. (I told you last week you’d need yoga pants, didn’t I? ;-))

fiesta-friday-badge-button-i-party

**********************************

Triple Berry Slab Pie

Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

For the Crust:

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups ice water

For the Filling

  • 6 cups of fresh or frozen berries (I used 2 cups each of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, plus 3 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

1. Make crust: In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, and sugar until combined. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining.

2. With machine running, add 1 cup ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if necessary, add up to 1/2 cup water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Do not overmix. Divide dough into 2 disks; wrap each tightly in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour (or up to overnight) .

3. Preheat oven to 400°. Make filling: In a large bowl, toss together blueberries, cornstarch, sugar, and lemon zest and juice.

4. On a floured work surface, roll out 1 disk to a 12-by-16-inch rectangle. Place in a 10-by-14-by-1-inch rimmed jelly-roll pan. Pour in berry filling, then lightly brush edges of crust with water.

5. On floured surface, roll out second disk to an 11-by-15-inch rectangle and lay over berry filling; press along moistened edges to seal. Fold overhang under, tucking it into pan, and crimp edges. With a paring knife, cut slits on top to vent

6. Place pie in oven, then reduce heat to 375 degrees. Bake until crust is golden and juices are bubbling, 50 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Dothraki Flat Bread

Naan1

Game of Thrones Series Week #6

Even though there was no new Game of Thrones shown last week, I still wanted to post a new recipe today for the series we’ve got going on for it now. I’m having that much fun with this whole making themed food thing. It kinda makes me sad that the season will be over soon…

When I first picked this recipe out, I was a little worried about writing the post because I wouldn’t have an episode to recap and review. I didn’t know what the heck I would be talking to you guys about if I couldn’t be talking about the previous week’s episode. I thought that I wouldn’t have something interesting to talk about.

And then, I made the flatbread. And guys, do I have a story for you.

The official, published title of this post is “Dothraki Flatbread”, but for the sake of the story that’s about to come, I’m gonna go ahead and add a little subtext to that:

“Dothraki Flatbread (And That One Time When Jess Set Her Oven on Fire)”

Yep, you read that right. While making this flatbread, my oven literally caught on fire. Twice.

Curious to hear what happened? Just keep reading.

Naan2

I decided to make flat bread for a couple of reasons: first of all, I friggin love the stuff. Chewier and fluffier than traditional pita bread, is flat bread is cooked over very high heat until it puffs up and browns on either side. Then it’s brushed with melted butter and herbs and served warm. I’ve wanted to make some of my own for a while (just to see if I could), and as I was pondering this, it occurred to me that it would be a recipe that I could work into my GoT series. Although Khal Drogo and the Dothraki are far behind Daenerys by now in the television series, I didn’t see any reason why I could include a recipe in my blog series that was dedicated to them. Flat bread’s (or by it’s traditional name, naan) origins are in Asian and Indian cuisines, and I can’t help but think that in George R. R. Martin’s imaginary world, the Dothraki are meant to represent an ‘Asian’/”Ethnic’ culture. I could get into another conversation about that, but instead. I’ll just stay on topic with the story of what happened with the flat bread.

Naan3

Okay, so when I was researching cooking techniques and methods of making flat bread, I saw that there were three ways of doing this: making it over a grill, frying it on a stove top, and baking it on a pizza stone in the oven. I’m a lousy griller, so the first option was automatically out. In order to choose between the final two options, I read through some past reviews of other cooks that had made it themselves at home to see what results it yielded for them. Here’s the thing, guys: almost every single review I read (seriously, just about every one) said that frying the flat bread over the stove would make your kitchen/house VERY smoky and set off all your smoke alarms and would take forever to clear out. (The skillet needs to be very VERY hot in order to cook the bread properly) On the other hand, everyone that baked their flat bread in the oven on a baking/pizza stone (again at a very high heat, like 500 degrees hot) said that it resulted in little to no smoke at all, and everything turned out easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.

What would you all have done if you were in my situation and shoes?

Naturally, you would’ve chosen the baking stone option, right? I mean, what reason would you have to doubt that anything would happen to go wrong for you, when it had gone so well for everyone else? My thoughts exactly.

Naan4

In retrospect, there are a few things that I probably would’ve done differently. First, I should have put a sheet pan on the bottom rack of the oven. Second, I probably shouldn’t have brushed the melted butter over the bread while it was still in the oven on the pizza stone. I suspect that it could have avoided all the drama that ensued. Unfortunately, I didn’t do either of those things, so here’s what happened:

I’ve never turned my oven up that high before besides when using the broiler. I wasn’t prepared for how hot it got. It got really, really, REALLY hot. When I placed the naan on the pizza stone for it’s cooking on the first side, it began to smoke a little from how hot it was. That concerned me a little, but I still let it go on doing it’s thing. The real problems started when I brushed the butter on the bread and flipped it. The butter began sliding off the bread and onto the pizza stone…then off and onto the scalding hot bottom of the oven. Butter and intense heat makes grease spots. Really, really, really, REALLY hot grease spots make the “f word”.

You see where I’m going with this?

So yeah, I ignited a fire in my oven. Well, maybe not a fire. More like a big flame. A brief one. It flashed for like two seconds. I screamed. It disappeared. It flared again. I screamed again. Then when it went out, I immediately turned off the oven, removed the pizza stone and put it into the sink with the half-cooked naan still on it. Then I went and sat my shaking, sweaty, frustrated self in a chair for a while to try and calm down.

Naan5

Fast forward about 20 minutes later. Me and my older sister have opened up the sliding glass door by the kitchen all the way and have recruited every fan in the house in the effort of blowing out the smoke that has accumulated as a result of my flat bread fiasco. I’m in the middle of a mini-meltdown, ready to throw up my hands and write myself off as the worst cook ever, repeatedly and frantically apologizing and shaking my head (the way I always do when I mess something up in the kitchen). My older sister is patiently and confidently assuring me that it’s not that big a deal, I’m not a bad cook, and the smoke really is going to be all cleared out of the room in about an hour. She also suggests that I try just finishing the rest of the flat breads on a skillet over the stove.

Well, I did. And guess what? Little to no smoke at all. It took about ten minutes, flat. How bout them apples? Don’t ever let me find the people from the reviews who said that baking it on a pizza stone was easier. It will not end well for them.

50307500

Like I said, the fire probably could have been prevented if I had taken the extra precautions with the sheet pan and holding off on brushing on the butter. All the same, I’m still going to be making my flat bread on a skillet on the stove from here on out. Fires are for losers, and the clean up in the aftermath is no fun.

I’m in no hurry to repeat the process of scrubbing out my oven with cleaner, rinsing it out with vinegar & lemon juice, THEN baking lemon and orange peels in it for over and hour just to get rid of the fumes.

So yeah: how was you guys weekend? Anything more eventful than a fire?

Game of Thrones Series

Week 1: Pigeon {Chicken} Pies

Week 2: Winterfell Brown Bread

Week 3: Southron Spinach & Plum Salad

Week 4: Baratheon Smothered Pork Chops & Apple Gravy

Week 5: Lemon Cakes

Week 6: Dothraki Flat Bread

***************************************************

Dothraki Flatbread

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Recipe Adapted from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  •  1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp ground basil
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

 Directions

1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy.

2. Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth.

3. Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.

4. Punch down dough. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

5. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, minced garlic and basil. Set aside.

6. During the second rising, heat a cast iron skillet or regular, non stick pan over high heat. Make sure you have a lid large enough to fit the  skillet.

7. Dampen your hands in the bowl of water and pick up one of your flatbreads, flip-flopping it from one hand to the other to lightly dampen it. Gently lay it in the skillet and set your timer for 1 minute. The dough should start to bubble. Brush top of flatbread with melted butter.

8. After about 1 minute, flip the flatbread. It should be blistered and somewhat blackened. Brush cooked side with the butter, then cover the skillet with the lid and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute more.

9. Place the flatbread in a tea towel-lined dish. Repeat with the rest of the flatbreads.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta