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Monday, January 31, 2011


She's not going to be happy I took this picture!
She asked if I was...and I "innocently"
said "oh, no ma'am!"  I'm so bad!
I was in Austin this week-end and drove out to Marble Falls to take my Mom out to lunch on Sunday.  We had a nice time going to the Blue Bonnet Cafe where we ended our delicious lunch with pieces of luscious lemon meringue pie (the meringue was piled high...about 5 or 6 inches...awesome) and coconut cream pie as well.  Our conversation meandered over to recipes, as they often do when I visit with my Mom and by the time we returned to her apartment she wanted to show me a recipe she had gotten from a friend with a missing measurement...which segued our conversation to recipe testing...old family recipes... and problems with her printer.

We moved to her room and I fixed the printer problem and showed her how to print from my blog.  I then asked if she had read the banana pudding blog I had just done where she replied "of course, I read all of your blogs!" <grin>  I said "then you remember I said I liked your banana pudding best but I didn't know how to make the pudding".  I then said if she had the time, would she tell me step by step how to do that and I'd type it up right then.  She looked happy that I'd asked.  I opened a document and said "okay go"...and she said "sugar"...I said "how much?"  "oh, about 2 cups", and I typed all the things she said...asking questions along the way.  I soon realized that "doing" and her "guessing" on a recipe were two vastly different dynamics.  I said "hey, do you have these ingredients?  Could we go make it and I can see exactly what you do?"  She said "sure" off we toddled to the kitchen.

Now, I am a slow, methodical cook...and she is a fast fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants cook.  She hasn't made this dish in years...and never with the set of cookware she currently has.  As we talked, I learned she used a cast iron skillet back in the day.  She is now using a $19.99 for set of 3 skillets from Wal-mart with poor heat distribution.  She just doesn't cook that much any more and had just replaced some old skillets that were "all burned up" <huh?>  I didn't want know how that had happened.  I worry about her enough as it is!  Regardless, she said it seemed to take a lot longer to get to each stage than she was used to...but that's okay.  We got 'er done.

So, we started the process from scratch, she and I both took notes, and took turns stirring (the number one key to her custard or pudding recipe...stir, stir, stir and never walk away).  Each step involved lots of discussion about why and how much.  The difference in ingredients she previously used compared to what she uses now - milk, skim vs whole, cornstarch is called Argo Cornstarch, regardless of the brand, etc.  My Mom has a story about everything!

My husband snoozed on the couch, the teen was playing poker on Grammie's computer, and I enjoyed a couple of hours 1:1 with my Mom.  At 81 years of age, I never know when these special times will suddenly be gone.  I'm really glad I made the drive out to Marble Falls to spend a nice afternoon cooking with Mom.  No drama, no rushing, no irritability... it was a rare and special time now that I live so far away.  I'm also really grateful to my hubby who didn't even hesitate when I suggested we go out to see my Mom...he said "sure, we should do that".  Good man!  Even more grateful to my sisters who share the bulk of helping Mom remain independent and cared for.  They are really great sisters to have!

When all was said and done, the custard was so good it made my eyes roll back in my head.  It screamed "happy childhood memory" in my brain.  Mom put this custard on fruit salad at every holiday...she layered it with bananas and Nilla Wafers for her Banana Pudding... it is incredibly sweet and delicious....and NOW I have the recipe and the hands-on training from "the pro".  Since she swears she reads all my blogs, I'll just say "thanks Mom, it was a great time".

Here's the recipe...and I'll say what I've said before...if your parents are still living, and you want to know how they made something special from your childhood...don't wait another day to call or write them, or go visit... and let them share the true "family jewels" with you.  You will truly be sorry if you don't take that time.  It's a real gift.

by Mary Helen Culp


2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, beaten with a fork
2 cups whole milk (not skim or low fat)
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (she had double strength - so maybe 3 teaspoons of regular strength?)
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1/8 cup cold milk - whisked or stirred with a fork until no lumps


In a large bottomed pan (skillet or sauce pan) add sugar and eggs.  Turn heat on medium low and start stirring until well incorporated. 

When mixture starts to heat up, add milk, increase heat to medium, and stir constantly until low boil begins and custard begins to thicken. 

Lower heat and add cornstarch slurry to pan and stir, stir, stir until you could draw a line down the back of the spoon and the custard doesn't drip through the line (use another instrument to do that unless you have asbestos fingers...I don't and I stuck my finger through the custard on the back of the spoon and CRAP it burned!). 

Remove from heat immediately, add vanilla and stir thoroughly to incorporate. 

The finished product - it was damn darn good!
Allow to cool before using.

Mom and I tasted a spoonful and looked at each other and smiled.  Perfection.

The only thing I would probably do that she doesn't do is strain the custard to remove any pieces of cooked egg (the white piece that is attached to the egg yolk gets hard in a stirred custard).  I pulled out a couple of pieces visible to the naked eye - I told Mom it was the umbilical cord (which it isn't I don't believe) and she squealed like a little girl and said "don't tell me that, I don't want to know those things...I'll never be able to eat eggs if I know stuff like that."  She cracks me up.  She grew up on a farm, owned and managed  numerous grocery stores, a meat market, and a seafood market...was a house mother to both Frat Rats and Sorority girls at The University of Texas...and reared 5 girls fairly efficiently...and she's squeamish about the innards of an egg? <grin>  Go figure!

Well, make it if you like - it is an exceptionally sweet mixture (and there are many recipes for this type of custard with little sugar, egg yolks only, etc.) or continue using the boxed pudding for your needs.  Now that I know how simple Mom's is, I will definitely be taking this walk down memory lane a little more often.

UPDATE:  Thanksgiving 2011
Took this photo of a fruit salad similar to my Mom's - using this type of custard.  OMG it was delicious!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Photo Source:  Google Images
Not exactly like mine - but somewhat close
I have made this recipe so many times I can't count - it is the BEST banana pudding I've found next to my Mom's... and she makes her own custard.... and I've never been able to get a good grip on custard (I'm still trying though!).  My good buddy, Janean, gave me this recipe.  It's easy, rich, and deliciously Southern tasting.

Banana pudding is a quintessential Southern dessert most often found at barbeque joints, diners, and any good potluck supper or church social!  Some have meringue toppings, some whipped cream...the ones I've eaten have all had layers of Nilla Wafers and slices of bananas....however your Mamma made it, is generally "your favorite" banana pudding.  I don't know why any of this is...but it just IS.

When I first saw my friend, Janean's, recipe and saw "sour cream" as an ingredient, I though "huh?", who would put sour cream in their banana pudding???  But I tried it...and let me tell you - you cannot taste the sour cream particularly, but it adds a big wow to the whole creamy texture of the dish and intensifies the depth of flavor.  It is the only one I make any more...and everyone loves it (even those kids of mine who don't like sour cream....shhhh, don't tell).

All of this is fast and easy and filled with off-the-shelf products...but I don't care.  It's some good stuff!

by Janean Allen


2 large boxes vanilla instant pudding
1 8 oz. container Cool Whip
1 8 oz. container sour cream
6 bananas
1 box Nilla Wafers
3 cups of milk
(Note, I buy the 12 oz container of Cool Whip and use 1/3 of it for topping)


Mix pudding, milk, Cool Whip, and sour cream with whisk or with a mixer (believe me, a mixer is easier to get it completely smooth).

First put down a thin layer of pudding mixture, then a layer of Nilla Wafers, then 3 bananas sliced up, a layer of pudding mixture - and then repeat, ending with the pudding.... confused?  Pudding, wafers, bananas, pudding, wafers, bananas, pudding.

I like to top it with plain whipped topping and put a few decorative Nilla Wafers in a pattern on top.  Just make sure every single banana is covered so they don't turn yucky.  I have also used 1 box of Vanilla Pudding and 1 box of Banana Pudding from time to time.  I like it both ways.

I prefer to make this in a clear glass serving dish - I use a trifle dish or a clear Pyrex baking dish.  That way you can see all the yummy layers.  You COULD top it with a meringue...but, I just like plain old whipped cream on my banana puddin' ... or Cool Whip - this is one of the times that Cool Whip is just fine with me!

Photo Source:  Google Images from
(apparently she makes hers from scratch!)
Refrigerate until ready to eat.  A couple of hours is good - softens the wafers just a tad and everything starts groovin' together.  The taste improves after a few hours of waiting!

Thanks Ms. Janean - for sharing such a great Southern classic...with a bit of a twist!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chicken Salad Spread

My friend, Sandy C., used to make her WORLD FAMOUS Chicken Salad every time we went to the beach...and she's so good, she'd make homemade sourdough bread to spread it on.  I can't say I have ever had a better sandwich spread...not ever!  It became synonymous with "going to the beach" for my family.  When she gave me the recipe, I would dutifully follow it to the "t" and pack it up in the ice chest, for the family trip...I didn't make the sourdough bread but we all loved it anyway.  It lasts very well in the fridge (although it was always gone by the end of vacation!).  Since we moved to the coast, I've only made it once...because it just makes so much!  Sandy's recipe calls for cooking a whole chicken with a bunch of real specific ingredients...and I'll say it is primo...but, it just makes too much unless we have a group visiting.

I started messing around with it...didn't want to change the basic flavors, but wanted to make an amount that would get eaten up before it turned bad.  I also wanted a "short cut" recipe...and save the full monty for special occasions.

The best I can come up with is my mini version of Sandy's World Famous Chicken Salad.  It takes less time and, because of that, I'm more prone to make it.  That, is a very good thing!



  • 1/2 Rotisserie Chicken (I make sure I get one that is "plain" - no special seasonings - if it's small - you may need more than half)
  • 3 Stalks celery - I use the tops too - they are finely chopped - and they are quite flavorful
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 1 cup fresh curly parsley leaves (pick them off the big stems)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp dried thyme - depending on the pungency of your dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 heaping tsp yellow mustard (like French's - not the dried stuff - the sandwich stuff)
  • 3/8 tsp ground ginger
  • Salt to taste (I used about 1 tsp in today's test recipe)
  • Miracle Whip Salad Dressing (I use the Light product) - enough to make it a spreadable consistency - today I used 5 really heaping tablespoons to get the perfect spreading consistency

Cut Rotisserie Chicken in half and use only one half for this recipe. 

Remove chicken from bone, discarding skin.  If you are a white meat only person, just use the breasts (but use both).  For testing purposes today, my rotisserie chicken was so scrawny I used both breasts and both thighs - it was an incredibly scrawny bird!

Place de-boned chicken in food processor and pulse until crumbly (don't over-process). 
The pulsed chicken - don't go any finer than this

Remove from processor bowl and place in a medium sized mixing bowl.

Add celery to processor bowl and process until finely chopped.

Remove from processor bowl and add to bowl with chicken.

Add onion and parsley together to processor bowl and process until finely chopped.

Remove from processor bowl and add to chicken.

The processed ingredients...onwards to the spices
...and yes, it looks like a lot of parsley,
but that is part of the "specialness" of this recipe!
Add seasonings to chicken and vegetable bowl (thyme, salt, mustard, and ginger).

Mix all to incorporate.

Add enough Miracle Whip to reach a "spread" consistency.  Since the chicken is different every time, sometimes it takes a lot, sometimes less...just looking for a spreadable consistency.

The parsley makes it green-flecked, and adds a special "bite" to the flavor, as does the ginger.  Those are key ingredients I never skip.  Curly leaf parsley has more of a bite to it than flat leaf...I always use curly parsley for this.  I've tried leaving out bits and pieces and I've tried using flavored chickens...nope, not a good thing.  Also, the Miracle Whip is key - I've tried it with Mayo...just not the same.

Spread this on some sourdough bread, white sandwich bread, wheat bread or even put it in a pita ... it doesn't really matter... it is an awesome spread.  Add lettuce and tomato or just slap it on some bread and eat it "as is"... that's usually what we do.  Enjoy!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!


Friday, January 28, 2011

Lemon Supreme Cake

The finished product!
Yesterday I spent the morning organizing my baking cabinet.  Time to ditch things that were expired, use things that would expire in the near future, and assess the rather large number of ingredients and tools I have acquired over the last few years.  When we moved to a condo, storage was my nemesis.  There simply wasn't enough to go around.  When we renovated our kitchen, we decided to add two new arrays of cabinets to accommodate pantry items and baking items and other things that hadn't found a home.

I was happy to recall that I had purchased the items to make a tasty  recipe my friend had given to me, but I had not made.  I clearly remember it was really delicious and exceptionally moist and very lemony...which is right up my alley.  I decided I would make it, using a new Bundt pan my oldest son gave me for Christmas instead of the typical 9x13 pan called for in Ara's recipe.  (I got lots of shaped pans for Christmas) I'm sure it will be fine to substitute.

I will take the finished cake over to Dolphin Whisperer, Scarlet Colley, to enjoy (and/or share) while she sweetly toils away at the garage sale to benefit  Gabriel Tree of Life Foundation's Trail of Trees at the South Padre Island Convention Center.  If you are in the area, stop by the garage sale this week-end (behind Veranda's Nursery off Garcia in Port Isabel ).  If you are not in the area, and desire to support this meaningful cause, there is a donation link and a "buy a tree" link on the website.  I have spent time in this beautiful area, photographing birds and butterflies and flowers.  It is the most peaceful spot on the island besides the beach, in my humble opinion.  It is an uplifting and soul wrenchingly beautiful environment, honoring so many lives lost to those who love them.  So, your support will be GREATLY appreciated for this local treasure.

Now, on to the recipe.  It's easy, it's a kicked up mix.  And, it's really, really tasty!

recipe contributed by Ara Wisnoski


1 package Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme Cake Mix
1 package instant lemon pudding (I used the small box)
3/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
1 cup water
4 eggs (I used large eggs)


2 cups powdered confectioners sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice (that was 5 lemons for me)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Prepare 9x13 pan or Bundt pan with baking spray (I used the kind that has the flour already in it - and this step was not in the recipe...but I felt like it needed to be said - use a prepared pan)

Add cake mix, pudding mix, oil, and water to bowl of stand mixer.  Turn on low speed to begin mixing.  Add eggs one at a time.  Raise speed to medium until everything is thoroughly incorporated.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes (my Bundt cake took 47 minutes)

When cake is done (I touch the top lightly to "feel" for doneness and then double-checked with a skewer),  remove and rest on cooling rack while you make the glaze.

It took a while for the lighter colored portion to bake...
but it left a lovely brown crust!
Simply whisk together 2 cups of sifted powdered sugar with the lemon juice until smooth.

Turn the Bundt cake out onto a plate with a rim, and if you used a 9x13 pan, just leave it in the pan.
For the Bundt cake, take a skewer and poke holes all over the cake.  Amazingly, they aren't very visible. For the 9x13 pan, use a fork and punch holes all over the cake.  Really, that's what you do.  Pour glaze over the cake. 

(Note:  that made a LOT of glaze for a Bundt cake...I think it could be halved for a Bundt.  With the 9x13 pan, there is more surface to soak up the glaze...and that is what it does, it goes down into the cake...but the Bundt shape allowed it to roll down the sides.  I had put waxed paper around the base of the cake, fearing this might be the case - 4 pieces, barely tucked under the cake...I went around the cake with the glaze 3 times, and allowed it to soak for about 30 minutes, then I poured the excess glaze sitting on top of the wax paper into a bowl, added more powdered sugar to it, and made a thicker drizzle for the cake after the cake was completely cooled.  I think it made a prettier cake!  I fear the cake would be soggy if left sitting in that much excess glaze.  It IS supposed to be incredibly moist - and almost wet - but we don't want to get to the point where it falls apart!!!)

Glazed cake after excess glaze drained off the plate...much better!

I made some little molded white chocolate dolphins in honor of Scarlet, and a couple of flip flops ... because, well, it just seemed apropos!  I'm not a chocolatier - as you can tell if you look close - but I will say it was fun!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

John's Bagel Breakfast Sandwiches

In the days before the teen was even a glimmer in our eyes, my "boyfriend" and I would have sleep-overs on the week-ends when our exes had the kids.  Back in those days, he would cook up some tasty treats...I think he was just wooing me...because that stopped when we got married...hmmm.  Haha, I make it sound bad, but I love to cook...and he cleans I thought THAT was a win-win situation as we settled in to our life together!  What cook doesn't want to walk out of a dirty kitchen and know someone else is doing the cleaning???  I LOVE our arrangement!

One of his premier breakfast offerings were his bagel sandwiches.  This was way before there were fast-food bagel sandwiches on every drive-thru menu.  My John was a front runner in the bagel sandwich breakfast in Austin, Texas!  :-)))

I can make a pretty good replica, but I have to say, they aren't quite the way I remember from those laid back Sunday mornings of 1990 and 1991 :-)  His were definitely better.

So, I'll write down the way I do it...but I know he probably had a couple of "secrets" he threw in that made it special.  I may never know what they were!



2 whole grain bagels
4 slices Baby Swiss cheese
Softened butter
2 large eggs
A pinch of dried basil
A pinch of garlic powder
A smattering of onion powder
A sprinkling of white wine (usually left over from last night's bottle)
A teaspoon of water


Slice both bagels in half and lightly butter all four slices.  Place on baking sheet and top the bottom piece of each bagel with 1 slice of cheese.  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, with lid available, melt about 1 teaspoon butter over medium low heat.  Add about 1/2 teaspoon of the water to the bottom of the pan with the butter. (that's the way I get a basis for the steam)

In a bowl, whisk the eggs, basil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion, a tiny splash of wine (you don't want to be able to taste the wine, but it does seem to make a difference that it's there).

Pop the bagels under the broiler and lightly toast/melt the cheese.  Start the eggs (below).  Place toasted bagels on the plates you will serve on.

While the bagels are toasting, add the egg mixture to the saucepan and let the eggs begin to come together.  I raise the edge and move it around, in a similar fashion as when making an omelet, letting the runny egg get under the firming edges.  Put the lid on when it's still runny on top.  Let some steam develop.  Open the lid and sprinkle some water on top of the eggs, replace the lid.  These eggs start to rise and get fluffy.  Steam to your level of "happy doneness".

Remove lid and remove pan from heat.  Using a spatula, cut the egg "round" into 4 wedges.  Put a wedge of egg on each piece of bagel that has cheese on it.  Put a slice of cheese on top of the wedge and then put another wedge of eggs (with the triangle points facing opposite directions) on top of that piece of cheese, and top it with the top part of each bagel.

the finished bagel sandwich - I made a single today
so the eggs are not as fluffy as when 2 are used

I cut mine in half because everything smooshes out otherwise.  I can keep a better grip on half a sandwich.

Open's awesome and somewhat addictive.  I didn't think I would like basil and garlic and onion and wine in my eggs so early in the morning...but I did...and I do.

2 Whole Wheat Bagels from Bada Bing on SPI

So stop in at Bada Bing Bagels and grab some whole wheat bagels and give these sandwiches a try.  Maybe not something the kids will dig...but they surely did ring MY chimes!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lemon-Glazed Madeleines

There is no pastry I like better than a lemon glazed madeleine...they are just...indescribable.  I could try, I suppose...spongy, buttery, intensely flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth freaking delicious!  I could go on and on.  But I won't. 

I used to buy madeleines at a little place in Austin (and 60 other locations nationwide), La Madeleine Country French Cafe, which was right around the corner from my office.  They make fabulous omelets, excellent Croque Monsieur, awesome tomato basil soup as well as tasty French Onion soup....and lemon madeleines to DIE FOR!  I miss being near them.  I could make a long list of the delectable pastries in their case...but I'm likely to cry for wanting I'll just stick to talking about madeleines in general...since that is what the blog is about.  Madeleines....yum.

My middle son gave me a madeleine pan for Christmas.  It was on my Amazon wish list for nearly a year!  I no longer have any excuse not to learn to make them.  The only down side is one pan...which makes 12, and most recipes are for 24.  I think that is going to be okay though, because my chosen recipe says you really must let the batter rest in the fridge (so that means you can split the batch to bake off on separate days I presume) and you really should eat the madeleines you bake on the same day you bake them.  My neighbors will be happy if the teen doesn't like them ;-p

I looked at many of my favorite baking web sites for recipes...and I settled on trying the one I found on David Lebovitz's web site.  I liked the way he talked about them and the detailed instructions...I'm not going to quote all of his info was nearly 5 pages of printed material, including the recipe...but I will share his recipe and my thoughts on the process.  Take a look at his website though, it is worth reading about his take on Madeleines...and his writing is quite entertaining.

My son (the middle child) in Austin indicated his friend might appreciate some Madeleines if I was coming that way...but he thought she liked vanilla Madeleines.  I have yet to find a recipe that doesn't include lemon zest...but I guess I could I could do some subbing of vanilla for the zest...hmmm, we'll see about that.  For today, however, it is on to the lemon recipe!

Courtesy of David Lebovitz


3 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup (130g) granulated sugar
rounded 1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup (175g) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder (optional - and if you do use it increase the baking time by another minute or so because the batter will rise higher.  They are done when the cakes feel just set if you poke them with your finger...according to David)
Zest of one small lemon
9 tablespoons (120g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature, plus additional melted butter for preparing the molds

3/4 cup (150g) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons water


1.  Brush the indentations of a madeleine mold with melted butter.  Dust with flour, tap off any excess, and place in the fridge or freezer.

It's hard to get the butter not to pool in a non-stick pan -
hopefully this works okay - putting into freezer

2.  In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, whip the eggs, granulated sugar, and salt for 5 minutes until frothy and thickened. (it took me 7 minutes to get to a ribbon stage)

After 7 minutes of whisking - light yellow, fluffy, ribbonning into bowl

3.  Spoon the flour and baking powder (if using) into a sifter or mesh strainer and use a spatula to fold in the flour as you sift it over the batter. (Rest the bowl on a damp towel to help steady it for you.)

4.  Add the lemon zest to the cooled butter, then dribble the butter into the batter, a few spoonfuls at a time, while simultaneously folding to incorporate the butter.  Fold just until all the butter is incorporated.

5.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Batter can be chilled for up to 12 hours)

6.  To bake the madeleines, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

7.  (David listed this as number 8...I'm presuming it was a typo, not a missed step :-)

8.  Plop enough batter in the center of each indentation with enough batter which you think will fill it by 3/4's (you'll have to eyeball it, but it's not brain-surgery so don't worry if you're not exact)  Do not spread it. 

9.  OK - maybe this is a test - because there is no #9 in the just moves straight to 10.

10. Bake for 8-9 minutes or until the cakes just feel set.  While the cakes are baking, make a glaze in a small mixing bowl by stirring together the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and water until smooth.

11. Remove from the oven and tilt the madeleines out onto a cooling rack.  The moment they're cool enough to handle, dip each cake in the glaze, turning them over to make sure both sides are coated and scrape off any excess with a dull knife.  After dipping, rest each one back on the cooking rack, scalloped side up, until the cakes are cool and the glaze has firmed up. (Note - I used all of the glaze on the first batch...had to make a second batch of glaze for the last 12.  I also, on the second batch, used 2 tbsp lemon juice and just 1 teaspoon of water...the first glaze was really thin and I liked the second, more lemony glaze that had a bit more body...and actually looks more like Chef Lebovitz's pictures of the finished product when dried - may be the humidity here at the coast)

Storage:  glazed madeleines are best left uncovered, or not tightly-wrapped; they're best eaten the day they're made.  They can be kept in a container for up to three days after baking, if necessary.  I don't recommend freezing them since the glaze will melt.

This is not as complex as it sounds - the key is getting the sugar and eggs really fluffy (it took mine over 5 minutes to get to a ribbon state).  Secondly, not deflating all that whisk work ... gentle folding of the other ingredients are a must.  I've not seen other recipes call for the chill and the I don't know how important that is... but I needed a break, so letting it chill was good for me!

Batter in mold - hard to judge!

Judging the amount to go in the pan...hmmm... I just decided to use my small cookie scoop and put a generous scoop into each mold...and cross my fingers.  I started second guessing myself because some looked smaller and some looked more filled (but of course, I know I scooped the same amount)...but I added a little bit to the scrawnier looking molds...and, of course, those are the ones that puffed up the biggest!

Not as pretty as I'd hoped for :-(
I did use double acting baking I planned on letting them cook 10 minutes - but they were ready at 8 minutes...actually were more browned than I desired on the bottom.  I cooked them in the upper portion of the oven as suggested...but you can see the stripes where the butter in the molds pooled caused there to be uneven cooking.  I don't know what to do...but I only baked half of the recipe.  I'll have to see how the other half works...

This first batch were glazed and eaten warm

These things are really incredible tasting...maybe not bakery-pretty...but they tasted darn good.  Madeleines are tops in my book.  Maybe the only thing in a tight run for the money would be a well-made Napoleon.  I think the French have this pastry business fairly secured!  Now, I feel the challenge to make them "just right" I'll keep on trying!

Time for the 2nd batch...I'm going to take a risk and wash my pan, freeze it, and not re-butter and flour.  I'm praying "non stick pan" means just that.  If I'm wrong...we'll, I'll probably come back over here, high-lite this paragraph and hit the delete key :-)  So, if you are reading this...I guess they turned out okay!

Ta Da!!!  Yay - the pretty ones :-)

Whew - I'm so glad I tried the no butter and no flour deal on the 2nd batch...they are actually better tasting and prettier...the first batch wasn't as spongy as the second batch - like it had too much butter!  I'm thrilled to my toes (and filled to my toes too!) - the only thing I'm not happy our high humidity level today.  I doubt my glaze is going to harden.  But that's part of living at the coast - not much to be done about high humidity.  I risk sounding redundant...but I have to just more time...AWESOME tasting!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!! 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Monkey Bread

Yum- hot out of the oven and ready to serve!
Carrying on in my breakfast breads theme this week...although it wasn't planned to be that way!
My husband's best friend married a lovely woman, Pat, who was kind enough to entertain us on a few occasions in both Indiana and Colorado.  She made a great breakfast treat that I had never experienced until she served it to us.  Everyone else had eaten it before...but the teen and I had not (although the teen was a tot the first time...and a new teen the 2nd time).  We both fell in LOVE with it...and then I lost the recipe she gave me. 

A few weeks back, one of those weird serendipitous occurrences ...occurred!  I was flipping through my old newspaper and magazine recipe clippings and found that I had cut out this recipe, apparently many years ago...and it was almost identical to Pat's...and it had the same I was obviously drawn to it at some point in the past!  I have no memory of doing that, but's cool that it's there!

So, whether you've had Monkey Bread before...or not, you should try this recipe.  It's great when served with a big pile of crispy bacon :-)



1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup finely chopped nuts (optional)
3 cans buttermilk biscuits


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Coat the sides of a Bundt pan with cooking spray, butter, or vegetable oil (I use spray).
Melt the butter in a bowl in the microwave. 

Mix both sugars, the cinnamon, and nuts in a gallon-size Ziploc freezer bag. 

Open the biscuits, separate and cut/pull each biscuit into four or five bite sized bits.  Drop them into the sugar mixture and toss to coat.  Place the balls in the Bundt pan in layers, drizzling each layer with a little of the melted butter.  Sprinkle the remaining sugar from the Ziploc bag over the top and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  Be sure to let it cool for a minute or two before turning the Monkey Bread onto a plate and removing the pan.

Slice pieces to serve....or just put them in the middle of the table and pull off pieces (which is a bit messy).

Monkey Bread is fun, easy, and it tastes scrumptious too :-)  My monkeys just LOVE Monkey Bread!!!
Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

New York Crumb Cake

Photo Source:  Google Images
I first saw this coffee cake being made on an old Martha Stewart program in 2001 or 2002.  I really liked the way it looked and thought my middle son would really enjoy it.  I've made it several times for him - and he's always appreciative.  He's the coffee cake lover in our family... although he doesn't drink coffee!  It's really good and not a lot of work.  The recipe was provided by Martha's friend, Sara Foster, of the Foster's Markets in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina (the link shows another market as well - in Chapel Hill).  She said it was a big seller at the bakery, and I can see why.

Here's the recipe I printed off in 2002!

by Sara Foster


2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for pan
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Confectioners' sugar for dusting


1.  Place rack in center of oven, and heat oven to 325 degrees. 

Lightly brush a 9x12 1/2 inch baking pan with canola oil, dust with flour and tap to remove excess.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a second bowl, whisk together egg, milk, canola oil, and vanilla. 

Using a rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into egg mixture.

2.  Spread batter evenly into prepared pan, and set aside. 

In a medium bowl, combine remaining 2 1/2 cups flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. 

Pour melted butter over flour mixture, and toss with a rubber spatula until large crumbs form. 

Sprinkle crumbs over batter.

3.  Transfer pan to oven, and bake, rotating pan after 10 minutes. 

Continue baking until a cake tester comes out clean, about 10 minutes more.

4.  Transfer baking pan to a wire rack to cool. 

Dust with confectioners' sugar. 

Using a serrated knife or bench scraper, cut into 3-inch squares. 

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

I think what my son likes best about this coffee cake is the streusel topping - it is nearly as thick as the cake part!  The cake itself has a dense crumb texture - not very sweet...the sweetness is in the topping.  I, personally, like a sweeter cake...but, this is what my son if I'm making a coffee cake, this is it 99% of the time! 

While surfing around the Foster's Market web site, I found the recipe for a New York Crumb Cake on the web site under a recipes link (along with a multitude of other fabulous looking dishes - I'll be marking that website as a "favorite").  It was different - made for a jelly roll pan - so I'll give you the link here in case you need "more" in quantity...but I'm blogging the recipe I have, because I've made it many times and know the results.

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Playing With My Food

I woke up at 5:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning...laid in bed until 6:30 tossing and turning...refusing to get up.  While I lay there, my brain was whirring - hopping from subject to subject - thinking about the day, things I might blog about, things I needed to do, the weather...ugh, it just wouldn't shut back down.  So I rolled my ass self out of bed and made coffee and checked email...and started trolling the internet for scone recipes.  I have apples, grapefruit, strawberries...I wanted SOMETHING to bake for breakfast.  I managed to lose myself for about an hour and then realized I had better get a move on if I wanted to actually bake one of these I went looking for supplies, only to realize I was low on flour.  OMG, how did that happen?  I'm usually hyper organized about putting an item on the grocery list when I open the last item of its kind in the cabinet.  I'm guessing this was in one of my mad baking spells and I didn't stop to be bad.  No scones.  Bummer.

So, I moved over to see what kind of mixes I had...maybe muffins?  I have a few cake mixes and a blueberry muffin mix...and that's what I reached for. 

I thought to myself "hmmm, maybe I could make these in the new mini bundt pans my son gave me for Christmas..." and then "hmmm, I wonder what it would taste like if I put something in the bottom of the bundts so there would be a "topping" when I turned them out?"  So, I got busy.

I decided I would do a taste test for the boys...I'd put brown sugar and cinnamon in the bottom of 3 mini bundts, finely granulated sugar in the bottom of 3 others, regular blueberry muffins - straight from the mix directions in 3 others, and I would add some of last night's leftover chopped up strawberries coated in whipped cream to the last bit of mix for the last 3 muffins/mini-bundts.  I'll ask what the boys like best.  They'll be happy because I won't be snarling at them if they eat 4 muffins :-)

I sprayed the dark mini-bundt pans with butter-flavored baking spray, adjusted the temperature for a dark pan (the package said 400 for a dark or nonstick pan...mine was both).  The box said to use paper baking cups or cooking spray for the muffin I was golden (I hoped).

I drained the blueberries, prepped the batter, and prepped the pan with the cinnamon and brown sugar in 3, and the granulated sugar in 3 others.  I chopped the strawberries and had them ready.

Sprinkled brown sugar and a touch of cinnamon in bottom of pan
and some super fine sugar in the others

chopped leftover strawberries and whipped cream

I used a ladle to evenly divide the batter and added about 3 tablespoons of chopped strawberries, sort of coated in whipped cream, to the remaining batter and filled the last three mini bundts.

Ready for oven in the new mini bundt pans (thanks Jay and Jennie)

They are currently in the oven baking as I type this post.  They sure do smell good.  I'm going to get a cup of coffee and take a peek in the oven window.  Back in a second.

OK - as I walked into the kitchen, the timer went off (16 minutes) - and I felt like the muffins could use about 60-90 seconds more...just a tad more brown.  They had poofed up (like a muffin does) so I was hoping they would not be wobbly when I turned them out.

I took them out of the oven when the timer chimed and set the pan on a rack.  I figured I should turn them out fairly quickly so the sugars didn't harden in the pan.  I always fret about turning out bundt things...I have had more than my share of bundt stickage. (that's a technical term) These, however, turned out perfectly.  I put a baking tray on top of them, grabbed my hot pads, and FLIP.  Ta Da...perfect turnout when I peeked under the edge.  I can tell you, I was grinning from ear to ear.  Such a feeling of satisfaction when a pan works the way it is supposed to (first time usage and all).

I plated them - grouping in 3's - and put little notes next to them as to which kind they were.  I cracked open a strawberry blueberry one to start with...very pretty.  I selected that one for myself and also took a brown-sugar cinnamon topped muffin...and my cup of coffee and went to sit down for a muffin and coffee break.  The boys are still sleeping.

brown sugar cinnamon on the right - super fine granulated sugar on the left 

The results?  I ate the strawberry and blueberry muffin first - and I have to say, it was just "okay".  The texture wasn't as crumbly and the strawberries weren't sweet enough.  I knew that from dinner last night, but I'd hoped the overnight sit in sweetened whipped cream might have helped them along, but it didn't really.

Onward to #2...I loved the brown sugar cinnamon was just "barely there" and did harden up a bit...which gave it some good mouth feel.  It was excellent.  It added to the taste of the blandish blueberry muffin (I find box blueberry muffins so much more bland than bakery blueberry muffins).  I ate both of those with my coffee, then went and sliced a bite out of one with just the superfine sugar topping...the topping had definitely hardened since being taken from the oven...not bad, because it was quite a thin coating...just resulted in more texture.  It, too, added the missing element to take the boxed mix from "eh" to "yum".  I'll leave the plain one - I know what they taste like!

regular blueberry muffins on teh left - strawberry/blueberry on the right

So, now the husband is up..."what are these notes?"  I'm pretty sure I heard a groan when I told him I was testing.  I asked if he wanted some..."not now".  He's not called Grandpa Cranky for nothing.  When he gets up, he just wants to drink coffee, sit in his recliner, and click around on his laptop (he really likes the Sunday paper but says it is not worth buying down here in the RGV).  I'll just wait...he'll participate, though, if he wants to eat muffins!  I'll just need to be quiet and let him wake all the way up :-)

He has now finished all four of his muffins (geez, you are spending the morning with's now almost 9:30!) and I asked what he thought.  His first response "I thought the strawberry blueberry ones were too moist" and I said I agreed.  I asked if he preferred the toppings over plain "I didn't prefer prefer them" (what the hell does that mean?) I rephrased the question...okay, which of the four did you like best.  "I guess the brown sugar cinnamon one".  So, there you have it - we agree!

I like playing with my food...I enjoy messing with recipes.  I really enjoy trying to take a box mix and "kick it up a notch" to make it just a bit better.  I won't be waiting for the teen's comments...I'll be lucky to see him before noon!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sharon's One Dish Mexican Casserole

I am hoping and praying my memory is serving me correctly...the recipe I am sharing today is from a friend of over 30 years.  She worked in Human Resources with me at Shoal Creek beginning in 1979, then she transferred to a different job in the hospital, and I got promoted to her job...and through all the bouncing around and changes in our lives...we managed to reconnect years later via Facebook.  Gotta love those social networks!  Before the days of techno social networks, there was a definite social network in our workplace...the lunch table in the cafeteria :-) where daily "status updates" occurred and "family updates" and "new connections" were established and you could "friend" someone without clicking a single button.  There were no computers of any consequence in our work environment in those days...certainly no PCs or Apples, ergo no email either...those words weren't even in the lingo.  We managed to get by somehow :-)

When I saw, on Facebook, that Sharon P.'s birthday was coming up this week, I went and searched for a recipe in my "piles" that might have her name on it.  I didn't find her name...but I really, really, really think this is her recipe.  (She'll tell me if I'm wrong)  It's in my handwriting - so I'm guessing I called her on the phone (no text, no email...picked up the phone and dialled her extension) and asked for the recipe!

I used to make this a lot...and I plan to make it again.  Probably not today though, because I have other stuff going on.  I'll make it soon...and add photos.  But, I wanted to share a Sharon recipe this week. (please let my memory be correct...I'm gonna HATE it if she posts "uh, this is not my recipe"....I'll have to change the title and EVERYTHING.

Enjoy - it's easy and tasty and a quick meal, great for a big family!



2 pounds ground beef
2 medium onions - chopped
2 cloves garlic
16 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup tomato juice (or water)
2 16 oz cans dark kidney beans (with liquid)
1 tsp oregano
Dash ground cominos
4 Tbsp chili powder
Regular size Frito's corn chips
Shredded lettuce
Chopped green onion
Chopped tomatoes
Chopped/sliced black olives
Sour Cream
Grated Co-Jack cheese


Brown beef, onions, and garlic.  Stir in tomato sauce, tomato juice, and seasonings.

Alternate layers of beef mixture, beans, and Fritos in a greased casserole ending with a layer of chips.

Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees in a large covered casserole, uncovering it for the last ten minutes.  Serve with toppings or layer on top of casserole.

Bon Appetit, Y'all

Dirty Al's at Pelican Station

I've written about Dirty Al's before - I love their shrimp - but I didn't realize that my husband has never been to the mainland location, located at Pelican Station.  It is a really nice place...and filled with history as well as good food.  I first went to the spot when it was the restaurant, "Pelican Station" and I found some history about the location on their old web site.  It's interesting history about our I'm quoting from that old web site below and copying one of their photos as well.

Rio Grande Rail Road Company 1870 - 1911

Pelican Station is located on the exact site where the Rio Grande Rail Road ran in the late 1800's. RGRR began in 1870 as the only railroad in Texas and one of the few in the United States. It was a 42" gauge railroad. RGRR ran a twenty-six mile route between Point Isabel and Brownsville and consisted of three locomotives and fifty-six cars.
RGRR was owned and operated by several Brownsville businessmen. It was created in an attempt to break the transportation monopoly held by riverboat owners Richard King and Mifflin Kennedy, who later became owners of large ranches in the area.

RGRR had a loading / unloading pier 1000 feet long, built over the shallow waters of the Laguna Madre. Lighter boats would offload cargo from ships offshore of Point Isabel and deliver it to the pier to be offloaded once again. This process was reversed for cargo shipped from Port Isabel. This pier was rebuilt in 1928, by the US Corps of Engineers, and used to deliver the granite rock used to construct the Jetties.

There is a railroad car in the parking lot...and my son tends to respond "the historical railroad place?" when I ask if he wants to go to Dirty Al's. 

Photo Source:

My hubby and I wanted to go out to lunch on the mainland side today because we had errands to run in Port Isabel...I suggested Mexiquito's, Dirty Al's, or Pirate's Landing.  He jumped at Dirty Al's - so off we went!

We were seated quickly at a table with a wonderful view of the causeway and South Padre Island...and some pelicans perched on pilings.  It was a sunny day, but in the upper 40's...unusually cold for us!  We enjoyed watching the birds and the bay and chatting while we waited for our order.  Our drink orders were taken rapidly and served equally efficiently.  My husband ordered the shrimp and oyster platter and I ordered the medium shrimp platter with onion rings instead of fries.  My hubby quickly changed to onion rings as well when he heard me doing so.

Our food was not too long in coming, so we were happily ready to dig in when I bring everything to a halt saying I needed a photo..."of course you do" he responds dryly,  "but you took your camera out of your purse before we left the house".  I do have my cell phone, however, so it had to do!

Medium Shrimp Platter with Onion Rings Substituted for fries - an Add'l $2.50

Medium Shrimp and Oyster Platter with Onion Rings Substituted for frues
 I absolutely love the Dirty Al's shrimp...the onion rings are not worth, in my humble opinion, an additional $2.50 for the substitution.  They tasted slightly overly-greasy - which I confirmed with my husband as his opinion as well.  If we'd realized there were so many (we left about 8 or 9 on the plate between us), only one of us would have paid for the up charge and shared the onion rings.  That would have been better.  With drinks and tip our lunch was $35.00 and that's a bit pricey for a week-day lunch.

The shrimp are so fresh tasting, though, I'd rather get them here than most anywhere else at this point.  I've tried them in a LOT of places...these folks know how to fry some shrimp.  They split them, and lightly bread them, and they don't taste greasy at all. 

Some of the best, if not THE best, fried shrimp in the area!!!
They bring 3 sauces with your platter...cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, and ranch dressing...and they serve a squeeze bottle of Dirty Al's secret sauce...and, catsup of course.  My sons love the Dirty Al's sauce - and if you read my previous posts, you know I've not had luck in getting any to take with us.  Today I asked about it and the waitress said, yes the did sell it, but it wasn't bottled, it was in a Styrofoam container with lid and it cost $6 or $8 - she wasn't sure.  That didn't sound like it would transport well - so I skipped it.  They'll just have to come see me and buy it themselves!  I love it when my kids visit (hint, hint if you are reading this boys!).

My husband and I walked to the car laughing, saying "if only Pier 19 and Dirty Al's could get together...we'd have the perfect shrimp platter with onion rings".  We both love Pier 19's onion rings and Dirty Al's shrimp is our current "favorite" vote in the fried category.  Oh well - isn't it always that way?  Keeps you searching for the perfect plate!

We both walked away with a full tummy and a satisfactory feeling - so good lunch in my book!


4 – Lip smackin’ - good quality – flip flops will definitely be parked under their table again!

Dirty Al's at Pelican Station on UrbanspoonStumbleUpon

Friday, January 21, 2011

Almond Joy Bars

Do you love the Almond Joy candy bar?  I do...they are the only food item with coconut I would eat as a child.  Don't know that this is a good thing!  My hubby's previous supervisor made these cookies for a cookie contest at work and I've been making them almost every Christmas since then.  I didn't make them this year...I got too overwhelmed with sweet treats to finish my list.

Hence, I don't have a photo of my version of these great bar cookies...Almond Joy Bars...but I did find an image that looks very much like the finished product....

Photo Source:  Google Image courtesy of
Oddly enough, this recipe doesn't have almonds in it...but it's quite easy to sprinkle some toasted almonds underneath the chocolate...for a really great addition to this bar cookie.  If you love chocolaty, coconuty,'ll like this treat!

by Debbie Taul

2 cups crushed graham crackers
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter

Mix the above and press into 9x13 pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Mix together and spread over graham cracker crust
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes

1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds (optional)
10-12 oz of milk chocolate Hershey's bars (1 8-oz bar and 2 of the regular size you buy on the candy aisle)
1 Tbsp creamy peanut butter

Sprinkle toasted almonds over coconut mix (optional)
Break apart and melt chocolate bars in microwave with the peanut butter...melt in 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.
Pour over coconut mixture and smooth with spatula

Allow to set up and slice into whatever size bars you enjoy...just remember they are really rich.

Bon Appetit, Y'all!StumbleUpon

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Flash In The Pan

Do you have trouble baking an apple pie?  I do.  Pies are not my matter how I try, regardless of homemade crust or even store's either soggy or burned on the bottom or shrinks or the edges burn.  I am just not a pie baker!  I simply don't have "the touch".

I'm working on that this year...maybe.

The one thing I do have luck with, is the more rustic style.  The ones that taste marvelous...but don't look traditionally "pie like" :-)

I made this "upside down pie", or tart, for the first time in the early 1990's.  Almost no one can mess THIS up (thank goodness).  It was either in a magazine or the newspaper...I can't really tell.  It's so old it is I'm thinking newspaper!  Oddly, the recipe did not include I've added my spices to it...way better.  It also calls for laying your apples out in a circular, I just kind of dump them in.  Also, I put some of the lemon juice on my apple slices if they have to "wait for me" to get to them after I peel them.

Save this if you need an easy, yet delicious, apple tart recipe...upside down.



1/4 cup butter (use real butter - it matters)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cored and peeled Granny Smith apples, cut into slices (I had 2 large Gala apples - I used them - they were great)
1 rolled 1/4" thick round pie dough (refrigerated is fine - box is fine - scratch is fine - I made one from scratch this time)

Ready to go in the oven...see rustic is good!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place 1/4 cup butter in a 9-inch glass pie plate.  Place pie plate in oven until butter is melted.  Remove from oven; stir in brown sugar, light corn syrup, spices, and lemon juice.  Arrange apple slices over brown sugar mixture in circular pattern.  Drape rolled pie dough over apples, tucking sides in around apples.  Bake tart for 30-35 minutes (place on a baking sheet covered in foil in case of bubble overs...really makes clean-up easier in that event), until crust is golden brown.  Remove from oven, cool 5 minutes.  Invert tart onto serving plate with a lip.  Serve with ice cream, if desired.  Makes 6 servings.

Just out of the oven - be sure to let it sit for 5 minutes before flipping

Make sure you flip it onto a rimmed plate - the juice will run out of the tart.
Place the plate on top of the pie pan and "flip"
The pie crust I used is one I found because I needed one that didn't require shortening.  I only had I found a Land O'Lakes recipe that worked just great!  I also used the food processor to make the pretty darn easy.  I didn't roll it out very pretty...but since it was a "drape and tuck" it really didn't matter! 

from Land O'Lakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cups cold butter
4-5 tablespoons ice cold water

Method: (the one I used)
Cut butter into small pieces and place in freezer to get very cold.
Place flour and salt in bowl of food processor and pulse to combine.
Add butter to flour and pulse until you can't see the big butter want little bits throughout.
Through the shoot add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing until the dough just begins to come together.
Check the readiness by pinching together a small bit..if it holds shape, it's ready...if not add a bit more water.  Much will depend on the humidity of the day and the flour.  Mine took a full 5 tablespoons and about 1 extra teaspoon.

Turn the dough out onto a clean surface - push together with your hands - divide in half.
Pat dough into a disk and wrap each half in plastic wrap.  Place in refrigerator to rest at least 2 hours.

When ready to roll it, put some bench flour out on a smooth surface (granite counter works great) and roll to something resembling a circle :-)  That's as good as it gets with me!  Rustic...yeah, that's the ticket.

I didn't have any ice cream I whipped up some cream with vanilla and confectioner's was a delicious dessert.  Easy and delicious...who could ask for anything more?

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!StumbleUpon