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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Monkey Bread Take II

Got up and decided to make Monkey Bread this morning.  I've always used my friend's recipe - but this time I decided to use the Pillsbury recipe that is shown on the 4-pack of biscuits.

It's not greatly different - but different enough that I decided to give it a try.

Here's the way they do it:

You can see the pool of caramel in the center - yum!

Pillsbury's Monkey Bread


4 7 ounce cans Pillsbury buttermilk biscuits
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup packed brown sugar


Grease or spray a 12-cup Bundt cake pan.
Mix granulated sugar and cinnamon in a 1 gallon Ziploc bag. 
Cut each biscuit into quarters.
Shake quarters in bag to coat; place in pan.
Mix butter and brown sugar; pour over biscuit pieces.
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 40-45 minutes.
Cool 5 minutes.
Turn upside down.

Yum!  The friend's recipe - each piece is coated in a dark sweet caramel coating because both sugars are used for tossing and the butter is poured on in layers.  In the Pillsbury method - the brown sugar and butter coating is just poured over the top of the pieces (it flows down and coats the outside).  The "outside" is coated, but not the individual pieces - they are drier.  It is a little "lighter" tasting overall - but, frankly, I like  my friend's method with all the coating throughout.

Both still taste yummy - they are just slightly different. 

Bon Appetit, Y'all!StumbleUpon

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


My friends and I decided on lunch at Cafe Kranzler today.  I had not been in some time so was ready to jump on it...especially after seeing some Facebook photos featuring fresh Maine lobster.  Of course, I wasn't really thinking about having lobster for lunch...until I got there, that is!

However, the two lunch specials that most interested me - the lobster mac and cheese and the chicken pot pie, were both unavailable today.  Their lobster had not arrived yet...and I don't know what the story was with the chicken pot pie.  Bummer. 

We started off with coffee for my friends and I asked about the iced Green Tea since I had so enjoyed it before.  Our server said she would check to see if they had any...and ended up brewing a fresh pot for me.  I was a happy girl.  It wasn't, however, the same drink I'd had the first time I'd been there, but it was refreshing and delicious anyway.  I greatly appreciated the effort!

I ended up ordering the Quiche and Soup of the Day.  An excellent choice!  The 3-cheese, green chili quiche was encased in a flaky puff pastry that was buttery and delicately delicious.  The filling was perfect.  The soup of the day was a highly recommended Cream of Asparagus soup.  Gotta say, have never EVER tasted a Cream of Asparagus quite so delicious.  It was "foamy" it was so light - the bright fresh asparagus taste beaming through - absolutely awesome. 

One of my friends ordered the grilled portabello sandwich on Kranzler's house roll with a green olive pesto.  The portabello seemed thin at first glance (although difficult to tell that from the angle of the photograph) - she thought so too when she took the top of the bun off.  A tad disappointing for her I think.  It did look quite "sparse" but with the cheese (I guess that was cheese - I am uncertain), condiment and bread it looked good from the outside.  The thick sliced fried potatoes looked and smelled wonderful.  I wish I'd asked her for a little bite of the sandwich.  We're good enough friends that I could have asked - I just didn't think about it.  We do eat with our eyes, though, and I would have been disappointed as well after peaking inside.  I always envision grilled portabellos as being big and meaty...this one was thin and flat.  My friends thought maybe it needed two on the sandwich if they were that flat.

Still, the atmosphere is always pleasant at Kranzler's and I thoroughly enjoy the light classical music, the decor, and the general ambiance.  Very relaxing and enjoyable.  My lunch with tip was slightly under $17.00 - and I think it was well worth it.  I have only had lunch at Cafe Kranzler and I need to get there for dinner.  I don't eat a lot of dinners out - and it is on the pricier end for it might be a while before I get there.

I've read some mixed reviews on Urbanspoon...surprising reviews given the local raves.  I'm glad my experiences have all been good!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!

Cafe Kranzler on UrbanspoonStumbleUpon

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Summer Doldrums

I can't seem to get into the baking and cooking groove.  It's that mid-summer sense of blehhh, I don't want to be in the kitchen.  I have a long list of things I want to bake and cook - but no impetus to dig into the task.  As my momma would say "my git up and go has got up and went".

Glad I got off my butt and baked some bread!

I did decide to bake a loaf of bread today - I had planned refrigerator cinnamon rolls for breakfast (but that fell through last night when I blew it off and watched a movie instead) and then hot rolls planned for dinner; but decided at the last minute I wanted to make a simple loaf of bread.  Something I could just plop on the sheet pan after letting the Kitchen Aid do most of the work.  I decided on the often-baked and previously-blogged-about Pillow Bread...this time, though, I used half whole wheat flour (don't alert the teen - he thinks Alton's recipes cannot be messed with).  It worked great - slightly more dense than the traditional soft pillow bread dough, but very fragrant and yeasty none-the-less.  I still did a half recipe (which is absolutely adequate).

My recipe is half of Alton Brown's - and I substituted 1/2 the flour with Whole Wheat Flour

We're having some lightly battered and pan fried Tilapia for dinner and some green beans kicked up with a bit of crunchy bacon, as well as some steamed broccoli (which I'll be eating solo) a hot loaf of bread sounded like just the thing to top it off.

It took under 30 minutes from start to finish in prep time and clean up.  Thanks goodness...I just wasn't up to anything that would take any longer.  It's only 91 degrees here (albeit a heat index of 105) and so I can't complain too much about the heat (since my family is sweltering at 102 in Austin with heat index of 104) but it's Sunday, I feel lazy, and that's the only excuse I have.
Rising under a cotton cloth

The teen is industriously cleaning his room, doing his laundry, and hopefully cleaning his bathroom soon.  I think he'll be happy to have a Mom-cooked meal at the end of his day of chores.  And if I hear one more person say "you make him do his own laundry?  Really?"  I'll likely scream.  Heck ya, he's doing his own laundry.  He's almost 18, he wants to be independent...well, ladies, that is part of it!  This last year in school he is also going to be planning menus and doing his own shopping for groceries, too...on a specified budget.  I'm just one of those "mean Moms" that wants him to actually know how to survive before he shoots out the door thinking "freedommmmmm" and falls flat on his face.

In the meantime, he'll happily come running in here when he smells bread baking, likely with a giant smile on his face.  That boy loves homemade bread!

Between the time I typed this and before the rising was complete...the teen came to find me saying "Mom, I smell yeast in the kitchen, what are you making?"  When I replied Pillow Bread, he yelled "WAAHOOOO".  Told ya so!  Do I know my son, or what?

So, the rising is done...and it's time to bake.  Gosh, doesn't baking bread smell wonderful???  Maybe I'll rethink those cinnamon rolls ;-)
The dough after 90 minutes of rising - more than doubled
Delicious, although slightly heavier than the original.  We loved it!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!StumbleUpon

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Barracuda Grill

Updated 10/25/2011

Just opened July 8, 2011, Barracuda Grill looks to be a wonderful addition to the South Padre Island restaurant scene.  Located in the previous Naturally's location, it's good to see a nice building filled with a quality restaurant again.

The teen and I stopped in on the recommendation of a friend who had eaten there yesterday.  She said she had a char grilled sirloin burger and that it was really good.  I knew that would be something the teen would be able to "get his teeth into" so we headed there after pit stops at SPI ArtSpace and Paragraphs on Padre Blvd.  We were late in arriving, so were at the end of the lunch hour - still several tables were filled and it was comfortably bustling.

We were seated promptly and given menus to peruse.  Our drink orders were taken promptly by our very efficient and friendly waitress.  I tried to surreptitiously snap menu photos to upload to Urbanspoon and still take time to take in all the menu options.  When I go someplace for the first time, I like to try something I've been really happy with someplace there's a good comparison.  I wasn't overly hungry and the Mexican Shrimp Cocktail sounded good - especially as the menu indicated it was served with chips and crackers.  You've heard me complain about the lack of chips at other venues which left me opening dozens of little plastic wrappers.  The waitress said that was an excellent choice and she had just served that to another table.  (After she left, I saw even another order of it go by and was glad I had made that choice).  It was described as baby shrimp, avocados, pico, and their house cocktail sauce.  I admit I was concerned about the description of "baby shrimp" - but decided to go for it anyway.  It was listed at $7.

The teen selected a shrimp basket - surprise, surprise.  It was listed at $9.95 and she said it came with fries so we were good to go.

Our food arrived in good time - fast enough that I wasn't gnawing my knuckles but with enough time that I knew it was being prepared fresh and wasn't just sitting under a heat lamp.

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail - excellent appetizer or lunch, in this case

What a delicious surprise my Mexican Shrimp Cocktail was.  Baby shrimp were more realistically small shrimp with a few medium that were cut into pieces (as is common in this dish).  The house cocktail sauce was delicious and had the perfect mix of avocado and pico in the dish.  The peppers were mild yet left a perfectly zingy sting on my tongue.  Excellent.  The homemade garlicy crackers and freshly made chips were the perfect compliment, and I ate every one, including the 4 packages of saltines.  It was exactly the right amount although I was offered more chips and crackers if needed. 
Fresh made garlic crackers and tostado chips were outstanding!

Two thumbs up.  The presentation was lovely in a very tall glass with a long iced tea spoon to eat it with.  The only problem I had was it was slightly awkward as I am short and the top of the glass was higher than was comfortable for my height.  It didn't stop me, however, from eating every last drop!

This is how I like to eat this dish - every bite on something crispy - yum!

The teen's shrimp basket (I guess it was the shrimp basket - we were charged $13 I noticed when I got home so I'm not sure if she heard wrong or we were charged incorrectly) was delicious he said. 
Deliciously fresh hand-breaded shrimp - there were 6 in the order

Fresh and crisp hand-breaded shrimp along with hand-cut and battered fries.  Crispy and yummy.

Looked like hand-cut fries dipped in batter.  Very crisp and tasty.  Needed salt.

Drink refills were quick to come and we were very, very pleased.

I had the opportunity to chat with the chef who is a Port Isabel native returning after a 10 year stint in Austin running a Brazilian restaurant in the Hyde Park area near U.T.  She is working with her nephew, previously of Papa's in Port Isabel (on Garcia) to provide the island with high quality fresh dishes at a reasonable price.  She said their steaks are hand cut and everything is as fresh as possible.

I hope another new start-up can make it.  I can't wait to get back there for dinner - I'd love to taste one of their delectable-sounding steaks.  I also want to try some more of their lunch items...sounds like a place that might succeed if all maintains in the quality and service arena!

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

Here are some of my iffy photos of the menu:

Barracuda Grill on UrbanspoonStumbleUpon

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

flipflop Moscato Strawberry Tiramisu

We weren't patient enough to wait until it sat up long enough
and the layers tumbled...but it surely did taste good!!!
I know I've mentioned before that I think flipflop Winery's Moscato is simply Nectar of the Gods...but I'd just cracked open an icy cold, brand new bottle while I sat in my lounger on my steamy hot deck, looking at the bay and the setting sun a couple of nights ago...and feel I simply must expound on this particular vino...again....and really, I'm not sucking up to them.  I am absolutely not obligated to say good things about their wines.  I could say it sucked, it would not be happy for them, but I could

However, it would be a lie, I just absolutely love it.  I will say, my husband does not.  He does not like sweet wines and screwed up his face when I asked him to taste it.  So did my friend, Ann.  They are red wine drinkers...they like Merlots and Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.  I, for one, like Moscato, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Rieslings.  Those are my great loves in the wine world.  I could go the rest of my life without drinking another red.  I feel certain my husband feels the same about my fruity whites (as he calls them).  Opposites attract.  We each get our own bottle. :-)

My first sip of the evening slid down my throat, cooling my insides, while I pressed the cold bottle to my throat (it's been abnormally hot down here).  I had a little bowl of whole strawberries with me and I thought I'd dip them in the wine.  OMG that was good.   Life is good, and made even better by this lusciously affordable wine.  $7?  Really?  Yes, really.  I think vintner, David Georges, has a bit of Dionysus in his's that good.

As I sat cogitating life, the laziness of the coastal evening, the pleasure of the wine, and what I wanted to bake (yep, deep thoughts there), I knew I wanted to create another recipe using this fabulous summer wine.  I'd had tiramisu recently and I started thinking about how I might make something similar...perhaps replacing the coffee, Marsala, or sharp brandy flavors with Moscato and incorporating these sweet berries I was languidly dipping in the crisp yet sweet wine.

I needed some good lady fingers and I knew I'd seen some Italian lady fingers at Zeste in the past, so I decided I would pop in and get some if they were still stocking them.  I love Zeste and don't get there often enough.  I had checked HEB, Wal-Mart, and The Blue Zeste was my last chance....ta da...they had just what I was seeking.  Worth noting - a reminder that Zeste has tapas on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday during the summer.  Yummmmm.... (note October 2013 - Zeste's is now out of business.  A great loss for the island)

Anyway, back to the recipe creation.  There's no zabaglione nor custard in this recipe.  I wanted it light and easy.  Here's the recipe I came up with:

flipflop Moscato Strawberry Tiramisu


1 package crisp Italian lady fingers (I used Alessi Biscotti Savoiardi - there were 4 individual packets within the big packet)
11/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. flipflop Moscato wine, divided - per directions below
1 3/4 pounds of fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
A few pretty strawberries to decorate the dessert
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
2 8 oz. containers Mascarpone cheese,
     removed from fridge one hour before beginning to prepare recipe
2 cups heavy whipping cream
6 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla bean paste
A small amount of finely grated quality chocolate


Put hulled and sliced strawberries in a bowl and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of Moscato wine and the raw granulated sugar (turbinado). 

Stir and set aside on the counter top for about 30-45 minutes.

Whip the Mascarpone by hand with a spoonula until fluffy in a bowl large enough to accommodate the whipped cream eventually.

Separately, in a stand mixer, whip the cream and confectioner's sugar and both vanillas until very soft peaks form.
Lighten the Mascarpone with 1/3 of the very lightly whipped cream.  You want it to be loose.
Finish whipping the remaining cream to firm peaks and fold the rest of the whipped cream into the Mascarpone mixture.  Add 2 tablespoons Moscato to the creamed mixture and stir until incorporated.

Place 1 cup of Moscato wine in a shallow bowl and rapidly dip each lady finger in the wine and layer them into bottom of small glass baking dish or small trifle dish - one layer.  Don't dip until ready to place in dish.  I am taking a portion to a friend so I purchased some disposable 8 cup plastic containers so they don't have to think about returning dishes to me and they will be a smaller portion...perhaps not as pretty, but certainly more transportable.  Five of the Alessi lady fingers fit perfectly in the bottom of each of my containers - check with dry lady fingers before dipping so you know how they are going to fit in your container. 

Place them sugar side up after dipping.
Spoon a thin layer of whipped cream and Mascarpone mixture over the lady fingers and gently spread using an offset spatula.

Layer 1/2 of the strawberries over the whipped cream (in my case 1/4 as I was making two smaller portions).

Spread another thin layer of the of the whipped cream and Mascarpone mixture over the strawberries.

Layer another layer of lady fingers, dipped in wine, over the whipped cream mixture (the last layer had 6 lady fingers because my container was wider at the top).

Repeat process ending with whipped cream mixture. 

To summarize, I got 3 layers of lady fingers, 2 layers of strawberries and 5 layers of cream mixture, topping the last batch of lady fingers with just the cream mixture.

Refrigerate to set up and allow the lady fingers to soften before serving.  At least an hour or two.

Decorate the top of the dessert with "pretty" strawberries and more whipped cream if you desire. Dust with finely grated quality chocolate before serving.

I ran out of wine on the very last bit of lady I dipped them in the leftover strawberry and Moscato and sugar juice.  Cripes, that was good (I sampled a lady finger dipped to make sure that was okay and I didn't need to open another bottle).  I'm thinking that might have been the ultimate dip for the lady fingers!!!  I drank what was left in the about nectar!  Holy smokes!

What a great summer dessert this is, using my favorite Moscato of all time.  Thanks flipflop wine - you guys have made my summer fun!

I hope my "friend" (yet unknown who that will be) will be so kind as to comment (good or bad) about how they liked this dessert.  It's a very adult dessert - and I've never made it before... but the teen is going to enjoy a piece after dinner tonight.  I doubt there's much more than a couple of tablespoons of wine per serving after all is said and done.  I think it will be okay.

I got a little caught up with this and dinner is delayed.  I had to clean out the fridge to gather enough stuff to make tonight's dinner...I'm sure you'll read about what I ended up with if it is as tasty as it smells in the oven!!!
The teen's very decorated piece - extra whip with chocolate sauce AND grated chocolate!
He ate every single morsel on the plate!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!


Everyday Sisters Blog Hop - Featuring Berries

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

flipflop Moscato wine - A Review

My new best friends at flipflop Winery have been so kind as to send me some Moscato to savor.  I have let them know that Moscato is my favorite imagine my happy feet dancing when the doorbell rings and I see a "special delivery" right to my door.

I'm not a wine aficionado...not a reviewer of note...and I bake and cook with wine more than I sip it.  But, hey, when you crack open a bottle to cook with, you must have a glass to sip, right?

I'm a sweet and fruity white wine girl...and flipflop Moscato is a gloriously delightful sipping wine.  It is not overly sweet (to me), like some dessert style wines.  It is smooth and glides down your throat with a sultriness that calls for another sip....and another...and another...and all of the sudden you think "hey, my glass is empty, how did that happen?"

I love all of the flipflop wine labels - but must say the blue label, the color of the sea and sky on a gloriously sunny day, with sand dollars and little grass huts, compliments my coastal lifestyle to a perfect "t".  I have adopted flipflop wines as my "house brand" - and Moscato reigns as the "queen of the island" in my little corner of the world.

Thanks to flipflop affordable, outstandingly smooth and crisp all-at-the-same-time wine, it just tickles my flip flops silly.  I'm heading to the beach now...for lunch with a friend and some time under an umbrella lounging.  I'm taking a chilled bottle of Moscato, and I know it will make me a very happy girl!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!StumbleUpon

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A New Pan and a Yummy Spice Cake

I'm pleased with the result - this drizzled with Vanilla Bean Glaze
I've had a Nordic Ware small bundt pan with six flower shapes on my Amazon wish list for months now.  It's a specialty item - depending on where you find it, ranging from $23 to $35.  I haven't pulled the trigger because it seems like something I'd likely use closer to the holidays...and I already have so many specialty shaped pans...I kept waffling about whether or not to hit that order button.
Decorated with powdered sugar and some sugar crystals

When I was in Austin I had 20 minutes to spare before an appointment and there was a Goodwill Store nearby...and I decided to swing in to see if I might happen across a cake stand (I'm bordering on collecting cake stands...but space is holding me back...and I already have I really NEED more???).  You never know what you might stumble across at a Goodwill Store!  I'm a huge fan of consignment stores but charity stores are also worth a gander.  I've gotten good at fast scanning for what I seek.

Consider my look of disbelief when my eyes lit on a very similar Nordic Ware pan (I checked the brand to make sure) - which looked good as new, not a scratch on it, for $3.99!  This one was all roses, instead of the 3 different shapes...but, hey, I wasn't quibbling, this would certainly do!  I grabbed it.
The inside of the pan

The outside of the pan

Today I'm in the mood to bake and so I began to search out a dense cake recipe - and spice was niggling in my mind (our family loves a good spice cake).  I found a yogurt spice cake recipe and decided I'd give it a try.  I did change the spice options a bit and moved to white whole wheat flour (aka whole wheat cake flour) and mixed in some turbinado sugar in place of some of the white granulated.  Similar to a whole grain yogurt coffee cake I've made before, but different as I didn't want a coffee cake...but more of a dense cake I could glaze or frost...
and ultimately rose shaped :-)

So here's the recipe:

Spiced Whole Wheat Yogurt Pound Cake
Inspired by Georgie at


1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup turbinado sugar
1 cup butter, softened (I used salted because that's what I had)
1 cup plain yogurt
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

The "wet goods"

The "dry goods"


Prepare small bundt pans like mine shown above (or a single regular bundt pan) with Baker's Joy or other baking spray which includes flour.  Hit all the crevices to avoid sticking.  This recipe will fill these 6 plus another 12 to 18 real mini bundts. 

Note:  Since I wasn't sure how much these would rise, I ended up over-filling the 6 and only had enough for 9 of the minis - and even they rose up over the edge.  The rose cakes, however, overflowed into the bottom of my oven.
< %$*@ , but thank goodness for self cleaning ovens!> 
If you fill the 6-per-pan size no more than half full, it should be perfect.  I measured 1 cup of batter and, in retrospect, that was wayyyyyy too much. (This is a common problem I have - miscalculating rising :-) Andddd, to make matters worse, I jiggled the half cooked rose pan full of batter to a spot, more in the middle, and away from the electric elements (because dang it smelled awful when the burning batter hit the electric oven heating elements) - and the centers all sunk before my eyes.  CRAP!!!!  All of that was avoidable.  Must remember, always better to under fill than over fill!!!
All of that said - carry on - don't make my mistakes - because this was a really delicious tasting cake!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a stand mixer, cream sugars and softened butter until lighter in color and fluffy. 
Creamed turbinado and granulated sugar and softened butter

Add eggs, 1 at a time, until blended. 
Add vanilla extract and mix to incorporate.
Eggs and Vanilla incorporated

In separate bowl, whisk together flour, spices, salt, and baking soda. (I used a 4 cup measure - one less bowl to wash)
Add 1/3 dry ingredients - blend.
Add 1/2 yogurt - blend.
Add second 1/3 of dry ingredients - blend.
Add the rest of the yogurt - blend.
Add the last of the dry ingredients and beat for 60-90 seconds until your batter is smooth.
Batter complete

Separate the batter equally between the mini bundts (and remember note above and do not fill more than 1/2 way with batter).  Bake for 20 minutes for minis, 25 to 30 minutes for 6-pan and 35-38 minutes for single bundt cake.  Cake tester should come out clean when done.

Allow to cool in pan on rack for 15 minutes and then turn out onto rack to continue cooling.
You can see the overflow was not attractive

After the trimming, they looked excellent!
The mini bundts (I already had this pan) were deemed "quite good" by the teen

Either dust with confectioner's sugar or drizzle your favorite glaze.  I like the Vanilla Bean Drizzle you'll find at the bottom of this previous blog post link.

A drizzled rose - yum

I'm pretty pleased with this yummy recipe and still escatic about my awesome find at the Goodwill Store!  It performed beautifully, released perfectly (despite the over flow, which I just cut off with an extremely sharp lightly serrated knife after they cooled about 20 minutes - you couldn't hardly tell!), and I got the pan for about 85% off retail. The only failure today, was user-error....but still, woo hoo!!!  Good cake!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!