Caramel Snickerdoodle Cake

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So today, I’d like to say a few things about September 27th.

(Yes, I’m aware that today is the 26th. I just don’t want to talk about the 26th. I want to talk about the 27th.)

On September 27th, 1779, John Adams formally negotiated the Revolutionary War peace terms with Great Britain.

On September 27th, 1821, the Mexican Empire formally announced independence.

On September 27th, 1908, Henry Ford’s first Ford Model T automobile was leaves the Piquette Plant in Detroit, Michigan.

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On September 27th, 1919, the Democratic National Committee voted to allow female voters.

On September 27th, 1954 “The Tonight Show” first premiered, hosted by Steven Allen.

On September 27th, 1983, basketball legend Larry Bird signed a seven-year contract with the Boston Celtics worth $15 million. The contract made him the highest paid Celtic in history.

Then, on September 27th, 1989 (9:01 a.m. to be exact)…something else happened.

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A baby girl was delivered by C-section in a hospital on a remote Army base in Montana. She was me.

So yeah, guys: tomorrow (September 27th) will be my 25th birthday. I’ve officially hit the middle of my twenties-five years past twenty…and five years away from being thirty. Ouch. Why does just typing that out make me feel old?

Birthdays haven’t been very much of a big deal to me for years. I’ve never actually had a birthday party. Most of them have either been spent at home while my mom or grandma made me a special dinner and cake, or in more recent years, out for a celebratory dinner at a restaurant. Not much of a big deal, which is fine with me. I’m a self-proclaimed introvert and I my social life is very private. I don’t need much of a fuss.

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This year however, was special in that, this was the first time that I’ve ever made me and Jas our own birthday cake. I’ll admit, the blog was a huge factor in pushing me to make that decision. I usually don’t make very many cakes in our house, but for some reason I just felt a necessity to bake a  really good birthday cake for a post. So after running several different ideas by Jas, I finally settled on this cake as one.  We both were very impressed with the result. Despite the title, I wouldn’t say that the flavor mimics a snickerdoodle cookie perfectly- however, you get a lot of the cinnamon, earthy and rich flavors that remind you of autumn baked goods. The texture is very moist and soft, thanks to the sour cream.The icing really sends the whole dish over the top- it’s good enough to eat off a spoon, no joke.

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I’d like to give a small shout out to my twin sister Jas real quick:

We made it to 25 years, chick. Thanks for being a pretty awesome ‘womb-mate’ for nine months, and an even greater roommate for the last 25. It’s been a great ride. You’re not just my twin sister- you’re the person who knows me the most in the entire world- both the good and bad. Happy Birthday. You know I love you.

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I’ll be taking this cake to this week’s Fiesta Friday #35, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by Prudy and Naina. Hope to see you all there 😉

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Caramel Snickerdoodle Cake

Recipe Adapted from Gold Medal Flour

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 1 and 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1teaspoon salt
  • 1 can (5 oz) evaporated milk
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Cinnamon Icing

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

1. Heat oven to 350°F.

2. Grease 12-cup fluted tube cake pan with shortening. In small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the sugar and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon. Sprinkle mixture over inside of pan, turning to evenly coat. Shake out any excess.

3. In large bowl, mix remaining 1 3/4 cups sugar, remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon, the flour, baking soda and salt.

4. Stir remaining evaporated milk, sour cream, melted butter, vanilla and eggs into dry ingredients until well blended. Pour batter in pan.

5. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 30 minutes; remove from pan. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

6. Combine all remaining ingredients. Add more powdered sugar or milk if need be to achieve correct consistency. Icing should be slightly thicker than a glaze, but not as thick as a frosting. Using offset spatula, spread icing over cooled cake. Allow to harden for about 30 minutes. Serve.

Roast Beef and Bourbon Sauce

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Show of hands: how many of you guys out there make something new for dinner every single night?

Okay. Now, still show of hands: how many of you guys out there have full time day-jobs (like 8 or 9-5:00pm) and STILL make something new for dinner every single night?

Well, since we’re not sitting in the same room together, I may as well come clean and tell you guys that my hand’s not up. Although I’m kinda the designated cook in my house- a role I’m admittedly glad to fulfill-I’m still not the type of cook that makes something new for dinner every single night when I get off work. It just doesn’t happen that way.

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When I look back on past generations where women like my grandma really did make breakfast and dinner from scratch every.single.day, I’m really in awe. I personally can’t see myself cleaning a house,doing laundry, running errands and looking after children all day like she did, THEN on top of that throwing down in the kitchen. I just don’t have the energy for that. By the time I get home during the week, just about the only thing I feel like doing is just warming my food up and sitting down to eat it.

Having said that, my personal method of ensuring that me and my family eat good food during the week while also not wearing myself out, is to just make the majority of the food on the weekend, then eat the leftovers during the week.

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I’m trying to make enough food to feed 4 people for about 5 days, so I also usually end up cooking quite a bit. Roasts, pork loins and jumbo packages of chicken breasts are usually what I look for in the grocery store sale ads- with chicken usually being the one that gets picked the most. It’s the most inexpensive, and I actually kinda prefer it to red meat and pork. Sometimes though, I’ll come across a recipe that calls for red meat that I really really really want to make, and beef will win out for the week- which is basically what happened with this recipe.

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It’s been a while since I made a beef roast, and when I found this recipe I decided that it would be the one that would break my dry spell. The prep is actually ridiculously simple-you rub the meat over with salt & pepper then sear it in grapeseed oil- and I will say that the grapeseed oil does make all the difference. It has a really delicious, almost sweet flavor that I’ve never had in using any other cooking oil. After the meat is done roasting, then you can really get down to the good stuff: guys, this… sauce. It’s just amazing. It really exceeded my expectations (not an easy task) and was the perfect accompaniment to the tender, juicy meat. I sliced the roast into thick, round slices and poured the sauce on top, then roasted some vegetables with agave to serve on the side. It’s one of the best meals I’ve made, hands down.

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And even better than that, the leftover sliced beef makes for AMAZING sandwiches throughout the week, hot OR cold.

I’m ridiculously late to the Fiesta Friday #34 party this week, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted by Selma @Selma’s Table andElaine @Foodbod, but I’m still coming- if for nothing else, because I feel like I HAVE to share this roast beef. Have a good rest of the weekend, guys 🙂

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Roast Beef & Bourbon Sauce

Recipe Adapted from Aaron McCargo, Jr.

CLICK  HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

For Roast Beef

  • 1/4 cup coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 cup coarse cracked black pepper
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil, for searing
  • 1 whole Beef Striploin, trimmed with some fatback remaining

 

For Bourbon Sauce

  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1 cup onion, finely diced
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions

1.Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

2. Add oil to saute pan. Season meat on all sides with salt and pepper.

3. Sear meat on all sides, about 2 to 3 minutes each side.

4. Place meat on sheet tray with a rack. Roast meat for 30 to 40 minutes.

5. Crank oven up to 450 degrees F. and roast for an additional 15 to 20 minutes until crust forms and meat is nicely colored. When done, allow to rest before slicing. In a small bowl reserve juice for Bourbon Sauce.

6. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add 4 tablespoons butter. Add garlic, onion and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until nicely Add flour and mix well to form pasty roux.

7. Remove pan from flame. Add bourbon and scrape pan with a wooden spoon. Add stock and mix well removing any lumps.

8. Bring sauce to a boil and allow to simmer for 10 minutes until sauce thickens. Add sugar and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon cold butter and whisk together. Stir in reserved roast beef juice. Finish with parsley. Serve on top or along side of roasted meat.

Bourbon Peach Cobbler

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Picture this:

I’m sitting at my desk at work daydreaming about cooking, the blog and food (which, is pretty par for the course), and it suddenly dawns on me that the summer is winding down, and I haven’t made a single peach dessert. That’s like a crime, right? Pretty sure it’s probably illegal in some states. I immediately resolved to fix this error and bake something with peaches in it before summer was over and I missed my chance.

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As I always do when I resolve to bake or cook something, I polled the family to see what it was they would be interested in eating with peaches in it. I was feeling gung ho about a peach pie, but the general consensus leaned more in the direction of a peach cobbler. Now in all honesty,  I’ve got nothing against cobblers. They’re fine, they taste good, but I’ve always half-thought that cobblers are really just pies that never quite got their act together and grew up. In a family of fruit dessert overachievers, the cobbler is the wayward rebel kid that’s really charming and suave, but didn’t go to college or get a job and can’t stay in a stable relationship.

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Jas and I got into a mini debate about this. She’s somehow under the impression that cobbler’s superior to pie because in pie there’s such a thing as “too much crust” that “overpowers” the fruit filling. She only needs the top crust that a cobbler provides.

Let me repeat: she thinks there’s such a thing as too.much.crust.

Yeah, I know. I’m definitely the smarter twin.

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But, you know, whatever. I can’t just cook for myself and to be honest peach cobbler is a world of a lot easier to make than peach pie. So I decided to go with the cobbler and save the pie for a day when I’m feeling selfish and have more time to make the crust from scratch. I had a recipe from Tyler Florence bookmarked in my Food Network recipe box for a very long time and that’s what I went with here. I did leave the bourbon out of the cobbler, so that it would be cool for my baby niece to eat, but I’m sure it adds a great compliment to the sweetness of the peaches. Rather than just throw it all in one of my glass baking dishes, I just baked it in the cast iron skillet I cooked the peaches in. It looks so much more homey and rustic, don’t you think?

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I also tried out a fool-proof method of peeling peaches that won’t result in you removing too much of the fruit while trying to get rid of the skin.  I’m sure some of you already know this, but for those that don’t, it’s really pretty simple: set a pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Fill another bowl with ice water. Drop the peaches into the boiling water, and leave them there for about 45-60 seconds. Fish them out and immediately drop them into the bowl of ice water. Let them sit for about 2-3 minutes then take out. The skins should literally come off just by rubbing your fingers over the peaches. Voila.

I’m taking this cobbler to the Fiesta Friday #33 party this week, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted by Andrea @Cooking with a Wallflower and Sylvia @Superfoodista. It’s the freakin’ weekend, so go out and have yourself some fun alright? 😉

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 Bourbon Peach Cobbler

Recipe Courtesy of Tyler Florence

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 8 peaches, peeled and sliced, about 6 to 8 cups
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
  • Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl add the peaches, bourbon, 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon and mix well to coat the peaches evenly; set aside.

3. Prepare the dumplings: Into a bowl sift together the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter into small pieces. Add it to the flour mixture and cut it in with a pastry blender or your hands until the mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs. Pour in the cream and mix just until the dough comes together. Don’t overwork; the dough should be slightly sticky but manageable.

4. In a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium-low heat, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Add the peaches and cook gently until heated through, about 5 minutes. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls over the warm peaches. There can be gaps, the dough will puff up and spread out as it bakes.

5. Brush the top with some heavy cream and sprinkle with some turbinado sugar; put it into the oven on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Cook for 40 to 45 minutes until the top is browned and the fruit is bubbling.

Squash Casserole

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When I was putting this post together, I couldn’t stop thinking about this game that me and my twin sister Jas would play when we were little kids.

We grew up in the 90’s, where there were still such things as boom boxes, walkmans and cassette tapes around. I’m sure most of you still remember those, but for the ‘youngins’ that don’t, it’s cool- just google it. Anyway, my mom kept a large number of blank cassette tapes around that she used to make copies of music albums or church sermons. Eventually it got to the point where we had too many lying around that really weren’t serving any particular purpose.

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Jas and I has this weird quality of being able to make a game out of just about anything. Blank cassette tapes were no different, and one summer day we came up with the idea of using the cassette tapes, as well as two double deck boom boxes we had to record ourselves in a game. We would pretend that we were DJs on our very own imaginary radio station. I played the radio station’s primary ‘Host’, and Jas played the primary ‘Sponsor’- (why the sponsor would be on the actual broadcast of the radio show, I don’t know but we always just stuck with that title).

We even gave it a name and slogan: “WSFJ-Where Jesus Is the Way.” We gathered together all of our music cassette tapes and assembled a playlist of mixed Christian contemporary music that we recorded onto the tapes using the double deck. In the true style of actual radio stations, we had commercial breaks in between the songs where Jas as the ‘Sponsor’ would give product endorsements, ads and recommendations. We had a Book Club segment where we shared our favorite books and read off our favorite excerpts. Then there was even a Debate & Discussion segment where the two of us would discuss and debate various topics on the air, taking ‘questions’ from imaginary ‘callers’.

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 It may sound silly to you all now, but for us, it was a real blast. I think we accumulated over seven double sided cassette tapes from our imaginary little ‘radio station’.My mom insisted we keep them even after we grew up, saying that we would like listening to them later.  And it’s nothing if not entertaining  to listen a period in my life when I was young, silly and just having a lot of fun with something seemingly ordinary that me and Jas were able to turn into something we made a lot of fun.

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 What does that have to do with this post? Well, zucchini is one of those things that people tend to have a whole lot of around this time of year as they harvest their gardens, then try to find as many uses of it as possible just to not let it go to waste. When they run out of ideas, they usually start handing it out to other people to see if they can find something to do with it. Unfortunately, I don’t have a personal garden to grow my own zucchini, but fortunately I know a few people that do. And when they unload some of their surplus zucchini on me, I like finding other uses for it other than just zucchini bread (not that zucchini bread isn’t awesome enough on its own.)

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This recipe is one of the easiest, but tastiest ones I’ve ever tried when cooking with zucchini. Once you get our zucchini all chopped up, it all literally comes together in minutes and bakes in less than thirty. I serve it as a side dish, but it’s certainly good enough to eat all on it’s own. I used regular butter Ritz crackers to top it, but I can also see using some other flavored crackers to give it a twist, like ones flavored with garlic or herbs.

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Squash Casserole

Recipe Courtesy of Paula Deen

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 6 cups large diced yellow squash and zucchini
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon your favorite seasoning blend (like Mrs. Dash or Emeril’s Essence)
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup crushed butter crackers (recommended: Ritz)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Saute the squash in a little vegetable oil over medium-low heat until it has completely broken down, about 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Line a colander with a clean tea towel. Place the cooked squash in the lined colander. Squeeze excess moisture from the squash. Set aside.

4. In a medium size skillet, saute the onion in butter for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and mix all ingredients together except cracker crumbs.

5. Pour mixture into a buttered casserole dish and top with cracker crumbs. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve.

Zucchini Pizza Lasagna

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My mom is really, really REALLY crafty.

When I say that, I mean that she’s one of those people who can take the most ordinary, seemingly common objects and turn them into something really cool and awesome.This happened a lot when we were little kids. She would buy one of the cheap stuffed animals from the dollar store, then go to the fabric store to buy the clearance fabrics that she would sew into beautiful, sometimes even elaborate dresses to dress the animals in. A lot of the glass and porcelain knick knacks and show pieces in my grandma’s living room are ones that my mom bought from the dollar store and jazzed up on our her own so that they look like they came from a gift shop and cost a fortune. For a while, she even made and sold floral wreaths and jewelry boxes.

When I was around six or seven, me and my sisters were in our church’s Vacation Bible School in the summertime for kids and there was this costume contest. We didn’t have a lot of money at that time, and certainly not enough for my mom to buy three girls fancy costumes to wear. So, being the crafty, innovative person that she is, she decided to construct costumes for all of using items she already had in our house.

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Oh yeah, and I should probably mention that the items were white garbage bags, silver wrapping paper ribbon, glitter and dress-up wigs (two pink, and one blue). The result? Three little angels.

My mom sprinkled glitter over the white garbage bags, then cut holes out of them to fit our arms and legs. She then used the silver ribbon to cinch them at the waist, then curled the ends so that the bags looked like dresses. After putting on the wigs and a little bit of lipstick and blush, our costumes for the contest were complete.

I know it sounds weird and crazy now, but I can still remember feeling so pretty in that costume at the time. I thought my mom was a genius and was so proud of her for coming up with the idea. The reality is that instead of angels, the three of us looked like The Paper Bag Princess meets The Jetsons.

I can’t decide whether the greater miracle was that no one laughed or made fun of us…or that me and my sisters actually won that costume contest.

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Unfortunately, I don’t have my mom’s crafty abilities in using ordinary objects to create physical art that wins contests and makes money.Art’s not my thing- never has been, and likely never will be. I’m just a home cook. However that does mean that I can take ordinary ingredients that some people (including myself) may underestimate and make them into a dish that really exceeds even my own expectations. That’s what happened with this dish.

Small confession: I don’t like ordinary lasagna. For one, I hate ricotta cheese. Two, there’s something about the texture of the noodles, that puts me off. So for years, I’ve just avoided it all together. But then, I found myself with a whole lot of zucchini that I simply had to find something to do with that didn’t involve zucchini bread. I’ve seen variations of this dish done before, so I decided to create my own rendition, specially tailored for my ricotta/lasagna noodle-hating tastes.

I was REALLY impressed with how this came out.  The zucchini is such a great alternative to the pasta, and I actually think it’s a vast improvement on the original. It tastes like pure comfort food, and I’m planning on adding it to the dinner rotation for my family as a regular dish. I’m also bringing it to the party at this week’s Fiesta Friday #32, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener . Give it a try, folks. I don’t think you’ll regret it 🙂

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Zucchini Pizza Lasagna

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2-3 Large Zucchini
  • 1-2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 15 oz. cans of pizza sauce
  • 1 1/2lb ground beef
  • 1lb roll of pork (or turkey) sausage
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 7 oz. pouch of pepperoni
  • 8 oz. shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Using a mandolin (or a VERY sharp knife), slice zucchini length-wise into very thin slices, about 1/8 thick.

3. Lay slices on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and sprinkle liberally with salt. Bake in oven for about 10-12 minutes.

4. Using a paper towel, press all the remaining moisture from the zucchini and set aside.

5. Brown ground beef and sausage together in a pan, then drain off excess fat. In same skillet, saute onion and bell pepper in same skillet, until softened.

6. Pour pizza sauce into a bowl and stir in the ground beef, sausage, onion and bell pepper.

7. Turn up oven heat to 375°. Spray an 11 x 13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Layer the zucchini slices in the bottom and spread with pizza sauce. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over sauce, then lay pepperoni over cheese. Repeat layers, ending with pizza sauce.

8. Cover lasagna with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle top with the parmesan cheese. Bake for 10 more minutes.

9. Remove lasagna from oven and heat broiler. Place back in oven and bake until cheese is browned, about 2-3 minutes.

10. Allow lasagna to sit for about 30 minutes before eating to allow to settle. Serve.