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

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.

Snickers Cheesecake

Several years ago, my parents gave me a cheesecake cookbook for Christmas, and the first few cheesecakes I made from that cookbook were complete disasters.  The first time I did a water bath, the water leaked into the cheesecake and completely ruined it.  I had one that wouldn’t set.  Then there was the one where the crust was soggy.  Oh, and the one where the top cracked and looked incredibly ugly.  I could keep sharing disaster stories, but I think you get the idea.  Needless to say, I gave up on cheesecakes for a while.

Last month I shared a recipe for an Oreo Brownie Cheesecake.  I decided to give that cheesecake a try because it was a combination of cheesecake and brownie, and brownies are definitely my speciality.   That cheesecake success gave me the confidence to try another.  So when I ran onto this Snickers Cheesecake recipe from handletheheat.com, I knew I had to make it.  After all, it had total “Barbified” written all over it — chocolate cookie crust, cheesecake filling with snickers, all covered in chocolate ganache, and then sprinkled with more snickers.  If that doesn’t have my name written all over it, then I don’t know what does.  Let me just say, I’m so glad I gave cheesecake another shot.  This cheesecake is seriously delicious…..and quite easy.

Snickers Cheesecake Whole

Snickers Cheesecake

Ingredients:

  • 30 Oreo cookies
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 32 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 18 fun-size Snickers bars, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 package Snickers miniatures

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Process the Oreos in a food processor until they become finely ground crumbs.  Add the butter and pulse until moistened. Press into the bottom and halfway up the sides of a 9-inch spring form pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool.
While the crust is cooling, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Add in the sugar, cream, and vanilla and beat until combined. Finally, stir in the Snickers bars.
Pour the batter into the cooled crust. Bake for 1 hour, or until set and the top looks slightly dry. If the middle is slightly wobbly, that’s fine. Cool the cheesecake completely on a wire rack, then refrigerate at least 4 hours. Release the cheesecake from the pan onto a serving plate.
Place the chocolate chips in a medium heat proof bowl. In a small saucepan heat the cream just until simmering. Pour the cream over the chocolate chips. Let sit for a few minutes then stir until the mixture is melted and smooth. Pour over the top of cheesecake. Sprinkle the snickers over the cheesecake. Slice and serve.

Snickers Cheesecake Slice

Death by Chocolate Cake

Early on in the gum graft healing process, I discovered that chocolate cake was a soft food — or so I told my dentist.  With all the junk loaded on top and inside of this cake, I’d venture to say that this would not be considered soft food, and I doubt I would have been able to chew it a few weeks ago.  Lucky for me that my mouth is on the mend.  And while I haven’t been able to eat steak and I still have to use a fork and knife when I eat a sandwich, I had no problem with this cake.

It started out when I found this recipe for Ultimate Death by Chocolate Brownie Cake on Pinterest.

Here are the ingredients

  • Chocolate Cake Mix (plus the ingredients to make it)
  • Brownie Mix (plus the ingredients to make it)
  • 2 cans of Chocolate Fudge Frosting
  • 1 package Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Make the cake according to the directions on the box.  Pour the batter into two 8″ round pans sprayed with non-stick spray and lined with wax paper and bake according to the package directions.  Cool completely.

Make the brownie according to the directions on the box.  Pour the batter into one 8″ round pan sprayed with non-stick spray and lined with wax paper and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes.  Keep an eye out as oven temperatures vary.  Cool completely.

To assemble, place a cake layer on the bottom of a cake plate, spread on a layer of frosting, and top with a handful of chocolate chips.  Next add the brownie layer, spread on a layer of frosting, and top with a handful of chocolate chips.  Place the cake layer on top and frost the entire cake.  On her cake, she sprinkled the whole thing (top and sides) with the remaining chocolate chips.

Now here’s where I went crazy.  In her directions, she mentions substituting chopped candy between the layers to change-up the flavor.  I started thinking about last year’s birthday cake and all the stuff we put on top of it.  Then I looked at the jar of candy on the counter —

candy jar

so full that the lid won’t sit on it properly.  This jar belonged to my grandparents.  My grandmother kept it sitting on their kitchen counter with graham crackers in it.  Years ago, my mom gave it to me, and now it sits on our kitchen counter filled with treats.  It’s one of a handful of things in our house that I absolutely cherish.  It’s funny — Gray knows how special it is, and he uses great care whenever he gets a treat from ‘the jar’.

Back to the cake.  Instead of topping it with chocolate chips, I selected my favorite candies from the jar, chopped them up, placed them on top of the cake, and drizzle the whole thing with melted chocolate chips!  Another Barbified dessert!

death by chocolate cake

Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake Pops

In the spring, Gray’s school has a fundraiser called Cocoa Bella.  It’s a fun and elegant evening filled with socializing, bidding on art and donated items, and eating lots of chocolate.  In fact, everything there is chocolate — including the savory items.  Some of the items on the menu were cocoa and coffee crusted steak, Kahlua truffles, and chocolate dipped candied bacon.  I was tasked with making Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake Pops.

When I read the recipe, I was a bit concerned.  I wasn’t sure how they would work on a stick.  Over the years my mom and I have experimented with all kinds of cake balls and cake pops, and one of the things we have learned is that if the center is too soft, it cannot support the weight of the chocolate on the stick.  That was true with this recipe as well, but they worked beautifully without the stick.

Below is the recipe as it was given to me, but of course I made some changes.  Instead of the second package of Candiquik coating for dipping, I opted to dip them in some higher quality white chocolate which I also thinned with a bit of melted Crisco.  I simply melted the chocolate in the microwave on 50% power in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until smooth.  Then I stirred in 2-3 tablespoons of melted Crisco shortening to get the consistency I wanted.

My mom and I also figured out a few things as we made each batch.  (Oh, I failed to mention that we made 200 of these things — that’s 4 batches.)  First, we neither one thought it had enough raspberry flavor.  If I were doing it again, I would probably add 1 1/2 teaspoons of raspberry extract.  Second, we didn’t need to freeze the mixture before making the balls.  We used a melon ball scoop (sprayed with non-stick spray) to ensure consistent size, scooped them onto wax paper sprayed with non-stick spray, and then sprayed our hands with non-stick spray so we could roll them into balls.  We then placed the rolled balls in the freezer overnight to make sure they were completely frozen before dipping.

Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake Pops

Ingredients:

  • 2 (16 oz.) packages Vanilla CANDIQUIK® Coating
  • 2 (8 oz.) packages Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 packet (3.4 oz.) Jell-O Lemon Instant pudding/pie filling
  • 1 tsp. Raspberry Extract

Directions:

1. Melt 1 package of Vanilla CANDIQUIK according to the package directions.

2. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, blend melted CANDIQUIK with softened cream cheese, dry pudding mix, and raspberry extract until smooth.

3. Cover and place mixture in the freezer for 2-3 hours or until firm. These are very hard, it not impossible to roll if they are not super cold.

4. Remove mixture from freezer. On a baking sheet (dust with flour to ensure they don’t stick) roll mixture into 1” balls. Return the cheesecake balls to the freezer for an additional 45 minutes – 1 hour.

5. Melt Vanilla CANDIQUIK according to the package directions.

6. Remove a few cheesecake balls from the freezer at a time and insert a lollipop stick into the middle of each ball.  Holding the end of the stick, dip each pop into the CANDIQUIK, using a spoon to cover the ball completely in the coating. Allow excess coating to drip off and set on wax paper. Work quickly when dipping, as the coating will dry very fast due to the temperature of the cheesecake pops.  Sprinkle immediately (before coating dries) if desired. Or drizzle pink and/or yellow colored CandiQuik over your cheesecake pops.

Keep refrigerated in an airtight container.

They were elegantly displayed at Cocoa Bella and received rave reviews.  Unfortunately, I failed to take a photo of them in their elegant state, so all I have is the messy work-in-progress photo.  Sorry……but you get the idea.

lemon raspberry cheesecake pop

Malted Crispy M&M Cookies

There’s a guy at our church that has been the usher for as long as we’ve been attending.  We see him every week, helping folks find a seat.  While we knew his face, we’d never spoken to him until a few months ago when we ran into him along with his granddaughter at Chick-fil-a.  His granddaughter recognized Gray, he recognized us too, and so we chatted.  Now when we see him ushering folks to a seat, we always wave and exchange a few kinds words.

About a month ago, an e-mail went out requesting meal sign ups for a family.  After Matt and I did some digging, we realized it was our usher friend’s wife.  It’s funny really.  We knew him.  We knew her.  We just didn’t realize they went together.   I tried to sign up to take a meal, but all the slots were already spoken for.  So I just showed up at church the following Sunday with food.  I figured if they didn’t need it right then, they could always put it in the freezer for a later date.

Two Sundays ago, I was asking about his wife.  He said while her treatment was going well, she’d been sick a lot, food didn’t really taste good, and she’d lost about 20 pounds.  When my mom was going through treatment for breast cancer, there was one thing that she could always eat — Chicken Barley Soup.  I told him I’d bring a batch the following Sunday.

I did.  I also included a loaf of my homemade bread, and a batch of these — Malted Crispy M&M Cookies.  My mom said sweets didn’t really taste good to her while she was undergoing treatment.  I told her the soup was for her, the bread for both of them, and the cookies were for him.  Cookies, even if for just a moment, always make you feel better.

Below is the recipe I used, courtesy of the polkadotchair.com.  Of course I made a few minor adjustments — I used bread flour instead of all-purpose flour.  I’ve been doing this for a while now with all my cookie recipes.  I just produces a softer and more cake-like cookie.  I also used an entire bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips and an entire bag (the large size) of Crispy M&M’s.  I like a little cookie with my chocolate.

Malted Crispy M&M Cookies

1 C Butter Flavor Shortening
1 1/4 C Packed Brown Sugar
1/2 C Malted Milk Powder
2 T Chocolate Syrup
1 t Vanilla
1 Egg
2 C Flour
1 t Baking Soda
1/2 t Salt
1 1/2 C Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 C M&M’s® Crispy – about 2 2.8 oz packages

Instructions

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the first 5 ingredients in order. Beat 2 minutes. Add the egg and beat well. In a bowl mix together the dry ingredients. Add this to the ingredients in the mixer.

Add the chocolate chips and mix until just combine. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the M&M’s® Crispy by hand.

Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet (or use a silicon liner or parchment paper). Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. DO NOT over bake. I recommend checking the cookies at 8 minutes.  They will be lightly golden brown around the edges.  Cool on wire rack.

Crispy Malted M&M Cookies

And of course, I had to test them out on my QC Engineer before passing them along.  He gave them a two thumbs up.

Crispy Malted M&M Cookies Gray Eating