Brunch

I promise this will be the last egg-centered recipe for a while. Most Easter weekends, we go visit my parents.  Of course, since my ‘testing retirement’ husband is obsessed with building this barn…..

….he wanted to have Friday and Saturday to work on it.  Whenever we do stay at home for Easter, I make a nice brunch after church.  I mentioned a number of frittata recipes, and Matt just couldn’t get excited about them.  “What I could get excited about,” he says to me, “is Eggs Benedict.”  Ugh.  The thing is, I’m a bit intimidated by poached eggs.  I’ve never made them.  I’ve watched chefs do it on television, and they always make it look so easy.  But there’s something about dumping an egg in a pot of swirling, simmering water that seems hard to me.

My grandmother made poached eggs every morning by using this metal apparatus that she set down in a pan over some simmering water, and they always turned out beautifully.  I went searching and found this:

Now his wish was my command.  Eggs Benedict, asparagus, fresh fruit, AND a delicious Candy Bar Cake made up the brunch menu Easter Sunday.  Here are links to the recipes:  Eggs Benedict……Candy Bar Cake.

I do need to add that while my Candy Bar Cake tasted delicious, it looked less like a candy bar and more like the thing floating in the pool in the Caddyshack movie.

 

Peanut Butter Eggs

I’ve decided to continue on with the egg theme, and as much as I like farm fresh eggs — I like these kind of eggs even better!  I’ve always had an obsession with Reese’s Peanut Butter eggs; in fact, when I was in college I would buy several packages at a time and then hide them in a shoe box in the back of my closet so that my roommate wouldn’t find them.  Please don’t judge me; I have issues.

The first recipe, which I have since thrown away so I can’t even share it with you, called for brown sugar, vanilla, and flour in the peanut butter mixture.  The photos were beautiful, so I decided to make them.  Disappointing.  All you could taste was the brown sugar, plus the texture was off.  Looking back, I should have known not to use that one.  My mom and I make buckeyes every Christmas, and we simply used melted butter, peanut butter, and confectioners sugar, so I just applied that logic to this.  The best part of making them into the egg shape is that they are much larger!  My philosophy is that I’m only going to eat one, so it better be the biggest and best one that there is!

Peanut Butter Eggs

  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 bag milk chocolate chips
  • Vegetable oil

Frittata

Lately we’ve absolutely been inundated with fresh eggs, and I’m not at all complaining.  There’s a girl in Gray’s class that supplies everyone in the class, including the teacher, with a full carton of eggs every single time you return an empty carton.  Plus the folks up the road have chickens, they just went out-of-town, and she gave me a dozen plus everyday we’re collecting 4 eggs while they are gone.  Until last night, I had three dozen in the refrigerator.

Probably every other week, especially on a night when I bake fresh bread, we have a frittata.  I discovered this recipe years ago when I purchased my favorite cookbook.

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 12 ounces asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tomato, seeded, diced
  • Salt
  • 3 ounces Fontina, diced

Directions

Preheat the broiler. Whisk the eggs, cream, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend. Set aside. Heat the oil and butter in a 9 1/2-inch-diameter nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the asparagus and saute until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the tomato and a pinch of salt and saute 2 minutes longer. Pour the egg mixture over the asparagus mixture and cook for a few minutes until the eggs start to set. Sprinkle with cheese. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the frittata is almost set but the top is still runny, about 2 minutes. Place the skillet under the broiler. Broil until the top is set and golden brown on top, about 5 minutes. Let the frittata stand 2 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, loosen the frittata from skillet and slide the frittata onto a plate.

 

I quickly learned two things about frittatas — first, you really don’t need a recipe and second, you can put anything in one.  Really, ANYTHING.  Some of our favorite combinations are spinach, mushroom and Swiss; Brussels sprouts, bacon, and Fontina; roasted vegetables and Parmesan; ham, broccoli, and cheddar; even leftover chicken and rice!  You can also adjust the number of eggs you need based on the amount of stuff you have and the size of the pan you are using.  Most important, I start it on the stove just to get the edges set and then finish it in the oven on 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Sadly, these photos don’t at all do justice to how tasty this thing was — fluffy, rich, and flavorful.  If you’ve not gotten on the frittata bandwagon, then it’s high time you do…..especially if you have farm fresh eggs close at hand.

Grandma’s Caramel Popcorn

It’s been a long time since my last post.  It’s not that I haven’t been cooking and taking photos; it’s just that I haven’t been making the time to sit down and write about it. I write blogs and do social media for four companies, and I get paid to do that.  I don’t get paid to do this blog, so the other stuff tends to take priority.  By the time I’m finished with the other stuff, I’m usually all written out.  But Wednesday my mom and I made something that reminded me of my childhood, and I simply had to share it.

Gray is on spring break both this week and next week.  We talked about going somewhere, but Matt is ‘testing out retirement’ and enjoying it a bit too much.  He’d been planning for some time to tear down his old shop and build a bigger, better barn, and now that dream is finally becoming a reality.

He’s so focused on working on building that I cannot seem to tear him away for even a few days, so Gray and I decided to visit my parents.  There we were, our last day before heading back to Tennessee, and I started working on my mom.  It was clear that I wanted something, so she finally just said, “Spit it out.  What do you want?”  “Will you make me some caramel corn?” I asked.  And so the adventure began.

Grandma Butler’s Caramel Popcorn

  • 3 quarts popped corn (the good stuff made on the stove)

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup karo syrup
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Cook the above ingredients to crackle or hardball stage, and it spins a thread.  Remove from the heat and add:

  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Pour over the popped corn and mix well.

And as we made it, we reminisced about how my grandma did it, never using a thermometer (of course, we did)…..testing for it to spin like thread, and always knowing when it was perfectly done.  The funniest part was that Gray had never had popcorn cooked on the stove with oil.  He liked that better than the actual caramel corn, which by the way, I ate my weight in.

As always, I could not leave well enough alone.  I had to put some on a cookie sheet and drizzle it with melted milk and white chocolate.  I’m pretty sure my grandma wouldn’t mind.

And Matt Mitchell, your half is not at the bottom of the container.

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

48th birthdayForty-eight.  How did I get to be 48?  Most days I wake up, and I guess I feel like I’m in my mid-thirties.  There are days, however, when I do feel like I’m pushing 50 — when I get up at 4:00 a.m. a couple of days in a row, or when I run too many days in a row my right hamstring and hip start aching, or a day of yard work in the heat…..then I definitely start to feel my age.  I for sure can’t go at the pace I used to, and when I say pace, I mean in both running (my PB was years ago and I continue to get slower) and in just the day-to-day bustle of life.  But yet, even though the number continues to creep up, I still get excited about my birthday.48th birthday 2

I’m fairly certain it is because my parents, still to this day, go out of their way to throw me a birthday party.  I pick the menu, I pick the cake, my mom loads me up with presents, and I sit at the table and let everyone serve me.  Who wouldn’t love that?  The dinner menu hasn’t changed for years — this year I again requested my dad’s ribs. I typically request a crunchy coleslaw to go with it, but this year the green beans were in and so were the potatoes.  So my mom cooked up a mess of green beans and then she made ‘new potatoes.’  This was a term my Grandpa always used for little potatoes from the garden.  You wash and then boil them until fork tender, peel the skin off, and pan sear them in a little oil until the outside is crispy, and finally generously sprinkle them with salt.  It was one of his favorite ways to eat potatoes and truthfully one of mine too.

Now let’s get to the important part of this meal — the cake.  It’s funny because my dad and sister are always consistent with their birthday ‘cake’ requests.  I say ‘cake’ because my dad asks for banana pudding and my sister asks for cherry delight.  Let’s all say it together now — “YUCK!”

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting (thank you insidebrucrewlife.com)

48th birthday 3
Cake
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup cooled strong coffee
Chocolate Frosting
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
Peanut Butter Frosting
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 Tablespoons whipping cream
  • 4 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar

Topping

  • peanut butter cups

Directions

Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugars and beat again. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until mixed in. Stir in the vanilla. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir together the milk and coffee. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk mixture to the butter mixture. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour the batter in a foil lined greased 9×13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Remove and let cool. Cut the cake in half and set aside. (My mom baked them in 2 – 8″ rounds.)

Melt the chocolate chips and butter in a saucepan. Let cool for 5 minutes. Beat in the sour cream. Sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Slowly beat into the mixture. Spread the frosting on top of one side of the cake. Place the other layer on top.

Beat the butter and peanut butter. Add whipping cream, salt, honey and vanilla and cream again. Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat until creamy. Cover the cake with the frosting. Add chopped peanut butter cups to the top, and halved peanut butter cups to the sides, if desired. Store in a covered container. Serves 14.  (So she says.  I say it serves about 8-10.)

48th birthday 4

I thought this cake was really good, but if I ever make it, I won’t use honey in the frosting.  It gave the frosting an unusual floral aftertaste.  Instead, I think I’ll use honey roasted peanut butter, which is what I typically use in peanut butter buttercream.  But overall, it was a delicious cake.

 

Roasted Vegetable Pasta

“I miss having a garden,” I recently said to my father-in-law. “I thought you hated the garden,” he replied. I went on to explain that I have a love/hate relationship with having a garden. I love walking out at about 4:00 in the afternoon to see what is fresh and deciding what I can use for dinner that night. I hate the fact that a garden refuses to follow my schedule. I can’t tell you how many nights — after I’ve gotten up at 4:30 to run so I can volunteer at school until 2:30 and then come home and work while Gray does homework, then make dinner, and while I am trying to clean up, Matt brings in 2 buckets full of purple-hull peas to be shelled, washed, blanched, bagged, and then frozen. That doesn’t fit my schedule at 7:30 at night after a long day. But yet somehow I still miss the first part of the whole garden thing.

Toward the end of every July, Gray and I visit my parents for a week. We grace them with our presence so that they can spoil us with lots of fun, good food, oh and my birthday party. More on that last thing next week.  A bonus for visiting this time of year is that the garden is really coming on. So a few weeks ago, I traveled back to Tennessee from Indiana with a backseat full of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and squash (plus homemade blackberry jelly). Gray quickly demolished the cucumbers, and I slowly worked on the other items, making my grilled cheese with tomatoes and having plenty of BLT’s. I made zucchini bread, grilled squash, and I still had quite a bit of stuff left. Produce from a parent’s garden is like gold — you should never let it go to waste, so Saturday night I put the remaining tomatoes, zucchini, and squash to yummy use.

First, I made homemade marinara sauce using this recipe.

marinara 2016

Next, I chunked up zucchini, squash, and onion; placed them on a cookie sheet; drizzled them with olive oil; seasoned them with sea salt; and roasted them at 400 degrees for 35 minutes.

zucchini squash mom and dads garden

After the vegetables were done, I cooked rigatoni pasta to al dente, then mixed it with about half the sauce, the roasted vegetables, a ball of diced fresh mozzarella, placed all of it in a casserole dish, topped it all with freshly grated parmesan cheese, and then baked it at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

roasted veggie pasta

Yum!

roasted veggie pasta 2

And sadly now the produce from my parent’s garden is gone……. Hey Mom and Dad, didn’t you say you felt like coming to Tennessee this weekend?

Ham, Apple, Gruyere Panini

The story of the sandwich goes something like this —John Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), a British statesman and notorious gambler, invented this food so that he would not have to leave his gaming table to have supper.  While his motive isn’t exactly honorable, I’m super pleased by the end result.  I think the sandwich is an incredibly ingenious invention — all the food groups, as well as chocolate, can be incorporated in between two slices of bread, and voila, you’ve got instant deliciousness in a convenient little package.

In my never-ending quest to find unusual sandwiches, I stumbled onto this recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis, a Ham, Gruyère, and Apple Panini.  The Gruyère cheese is the thing that caught my eye on this one; I always have it in my refrigerator.  I love using it in frittata recipes and in grilled cheese.  It has a distinctive and slightly salty flavor but isn’t overpowering at all, plus it melts beautifully.  I like to think of Gruyère as Swiss cheese’s rich cousin.  It’s a bit more expensive but totally worth the price, but if you can’t find it, you can always use Swiss cheese.  Gray loves Gruyère it but he thinks it stinks when melting.  I have to agree with him on that one; it does have a pungent smell.

ham apple gruyere grilled cheese

Ham, Gruyère, and Apple Panini

1 teaspoon butter at room temperature
1/2 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 thick slices country-style white bread
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
2 ounces shredded Gruyère
2 slices Black Forest ham

In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the apple slices and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are slightly soft, about 4 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes.Preheat a panini press. Spread each bread slice with mustard. Arrange cheese on a bread slice and top with 2 slices of ham. Place the apple mixture evenly on top of the ham. Top with other slice of bread. Grill in the panini press until the cheese has melted and the top is golden and crispy, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Long live the sandwich!