Monday, June 25, 2012

What's in the oven? Whoopie Pies ala Chuck Hughes!

Chef Chuck Hughes has to be one of the most down-to-earth people on this planet. And I suspect he's probably one of the nicest. For those of you not familiar with this brilliant chef, he is a well-known Canadian chef, tv personality and restaurateur. He hosts the popular Chuck's Day Off on Cooking Channel and participated in the Food Network's The Next Iron Chef with other brilliant culinary experts like Anne Burrell, Robert Irvine and Michael Chiarello, just to name a few. Chef Hughes is also the only Canadian chef  and one of three competitors to defeat Chef Bobby Flay in Kitchen Central on Food Network's Iron Chef America. For those of you familiar with Chef Flay's abilities, that's quite an accomplishment! Chuck Hughes is a genius in the kitchen, funny and an all-around great guy with delicious, mouth-watering recipes.

I came across this recipe while looking through Chuck's recipes. I think it makes for a perfect 4th of July treat! Chef Hughes' instructions make very large pies and, as much as we like our sweet treats, they were just a little too big. So, I used the small cookie scoop and make mine just a little bit smaller. You can make them any size you like, but remember they spread out when baking, so take care not to crowd the baking sheet.

Chuck Hughes's Whoopie Pies

Makes about 8 Whoopie Pies

For the chocolate cake:

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup cocoa (unsweetened)

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter (1 stick) butter, room temperature

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Stir with a whisk a few times. This is a quick way to sift the dry ingredients!

Cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy; add the eggs, one-at-a-time. Add the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk. Beat until smooth.

Drop mounds of batter (about 1/2 cup) onto the baking sheet (6 per sheet - they spread during baking). Bake for 15 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. Repeat with remaining batter.

For the filling:

1 cup sugar

2 tbsp. honey

1 tsp. vanilla

2 egg whites, room temperature

2 tbsp. water

Using a hand mixer, combine all the filling ingredients in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl of a small saucepan of simmering water. Beat with the mixer until the mixture is thick and creamy and stands in peaks, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the heat and beat for 1-2 minutes more. Cool completely. The filling can be refrigerated until ready to use. I mixed my filling first and then made the cakes.

To assemble:

Spread a generous amount of filling on the flat side (bottom) of a chocolate cake. Sandwich with another cake (bottom-to-bottom), pressing down gently to spread the filling evenly. Repeat with remaining cakes. Serve immediately or wrap individually in plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator. They may also be frozen.


One other thought to leave you with:  this is some of the best-tasting marshmallow creme (fluff) I've ever had and it's super-simple to make at home. I may never buy marshmallow creme again!

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Did you know? . . . .

Did you know . . . .
  • more than 485,000 Americans are being treated for kidney disease (also known as end stage renal disease)?
  • there are only two methods of treatment that allow a person to continue living when their kidneys stop functioning - dialysis and transplantation?
  • of those being treated, approximately 341,000 are dialysis patients?
  • over 405000 people in the U.S. are waiting for a kidney transplant?
  • the cost of treating kidney failure in the U.S. is approximately $23 billion annually?
  • approximately 67,000 people die each year in the U.S. as a result of kidney disease?

You're probably wondering why I'm quoting statistics about kidney disease in this week's post.  As some of you may remember, I went back to school to earn a degree and while I was there, I met a lovely woman named Nora. Being in the same program, Nora and I had many classes together and I was able to get to know her better. I learned that Nora has worked in (kidney) dialysis for over 12 years and she has a beautiful daughter, Cassidy, who has just one kidney and high blood pressure.

Nora says "kidney disease is an everyday thing for us". In talking with Nora, I learned that people, like Cassidy, who are dealing with kidney disease require a special kidney-friendly diet because they have to watch their intake of certain foods, especially those containing high amounts of potassium and phosphorous. Too much potassium and phosphorous for people suffering from kidney disease can interfere with the two major functions of the kidneys:  eliminating fluid and filtering waste. Also, people with kidney disease must monitor the amount their daily intake of protein to make sure they have enough in their diet.

Tomorrow, June 23, 2012, is the National Kidney Foundation:  2012 Sioux Falls Walk. The walk is held each year in different locations across the country to raise awareness of kidney disease, find a cure and promote organ donation. Funds raised at the walk support free kidney screenings, initiatives to decrease the wait time for transplants and help support other patient and professional programs and services. This is Cassidy's second year as team captain for the DaVita Stars. They have set a team goal of raising $250 at this year's walk. If you'd like to help Cassidy and her team reach their goal, there's still time and you can donate here. Every gift is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

To honor Cassidy, her team and all the participants in this year's NKF walks, I'm featuring a couple of kidney-friendly recipes. We had both dishes for supper last night and they were easy to make and absolutely delicious! You'll notice salt is not listed as an ingredient in the stroganoff and it was not needed. The aroma of this dish as it slow cooked was intoxicating and I couldn't wait to try it. And it did not disappoint! I also learned a new technique for thickening the sauce - adding the flour to the sour cream. Genius!

Easy Crock Pot Beef Stroganoff

1 lb. boneless beef top round, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 cup reduced sodium beef broth (not "low" sodium - some brands may contain potassium chloride)

1/3 cup dry sherry (not "cooking" sherry - it has added salt, use regular sherry)

1/2 cup onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/8 tsp. dried thyme

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup flour

2 tbsp. water

6 cups egg noodles, cooked (12 oz. dry)

Spray the crock of your slow cooker with a little non-stick spray. Add the beef, onions and garlic. Mix the broth, sherry, oregano, pepper and thyme; pour over the beef. Add the bay leaf. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours (or on high for 4-5 hours).

About a half hour before serving, combine the sour cream, flour and water in a small bow. Mix well until smooth. Stir the sour cream mixture into the beef and sauce. Cover and cook for an additional 25 minutes or until sauce has thickened. Serve over egg noodles. I sprinkled my servings with a little bit of parsley for color.


Now, how about a little dessert? I have to warn you - you may not stop with just one serving of this bright, flavorful pudding!

Strawberry Pudding

1 cup water

2 cups crushed strawberries

1/2 cup sugar (or Splenda sugar substitute)

1 tsp. lemon zest

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

2 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch

6 tbsp. non-dairy whipped topping

Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the strawberries, lemon zest and lemon juice and simmer for 3-5 minutes.

Mix the cornstarch with a small amount of water and stir into the strawberries. Cook and stir the pudding until it thickens. Remove from heat and cool. Serve with a dollop of whipped topping.

For more information about kidney disease or the National Kidney Foundation Walks, please follow the links below:

National Kidney Foundation

End Stage Renal Disease & Transplant Information

NKF:  2012 Walk

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Blue Ribbon Challenge: Mousse!

Not so very long ago, Anna at Crunchy Creamy Sweet announced the Blue Ribbon Challenge:  a contest (of sorts) where the participants (bloggers of any and all kinds) make the same thing, but put their own special "spin" on it. Once you've created your own special version of the challenge theme, you blog about it and post your creation on the assigned date. The next day, yep - we all vote and the winner is awarded the coveted blue ribbon to post on their website.

Today is the first challenge:  for mousse!

I'll confess. I haven't made mousse since Home Economics class about a million years ago. Well, maybe not a million years ago, but it's been awhile. I don't think Home Ec is even offered in most schools anymore - it was that long ago! Anyway . . . .

I was pleasantly surprised at just how easy mousse is to make. It can be a very complex or refreshingly uncomplicated dessert - depending on your mood. But, either way, it's a memorable and delicious dessert. I'm still trying to figure out why I haven't thought to make it before the challenge.

For the first Blue Ribbon Challenge, I chose a Honey-Caramel Mousse. This mousse is light with a surprising twist. The taste reminds me of the Bit O' Honey candy, but with caramel overtones. The whipped cream garnish is unsweetened and helps to balance the sweetness of the mousse. I served my mousse with airy, little chocolate tuile cookie cutouts. Perfect!

Honey-Caramel Mousse

Carole's recipe in Bite-Sized Desserts calls for less honey - only a teaspoon. I love honey and wanted more of it to come through in the caramel mousse, so I tripled the amount of honey called for to a tablespoon.

1 cup heavy cream, divided

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tbsp. water

1 tbsp. honey

1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 tbsp. butter

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, add the sugar, brown sugar, water, honey and vanilla. DO NOT STIR. Heat the mixture over medium-high heat to boiling.  Brush around the inside of the pan with a damp pastry brush at the point where the sugar syrup meets the sides of the pan to prevent crystallization. Do this two times throughout the cooking time. Cook the syrup over medium-high heat, without stirring, until it turns the color of amber, about 6 minutes.

While the sugar syrup is cooking, heat 1/3 cup of cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Turn off the heat while you wait for the syrup to finish cooking.

Lower the heat under the syrup to medium. Slowly add the hot cream to the sugar syrup, stirring constantly with a long-handles spatula or spoon. The cream will bubble and foam, so be very careful. Continue to stir until the caramel is smooth and there are no lumps. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the butter. Stir until the butter is completely melted.

Transfer the caramel to a 2-quart bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate until the caramel is cool, but stir-able - about 1 to 2 hours.

Whip the remaining 2/3 cups cream until it holds soft peaks. Set aside 1/3 cup of the whipped cream. Fold the remaining whipped cream into the chilled caramel sauce in 3 stages. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours. The mousse (without any garnish) will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days when tightly wrapped with plastic wrap.

To serve, spoon the mousse into a serving bowl or dessert glass. Garnish with the reserved unsweetened whipped cream piped through a star tipped pastry bag.

Add tuile cookie cut-outs or other garnish, if you like and serve.

Enjoy! And if you like my Honey-Caramel Mousse, you can vote for it here! Thanks!!

This post is linked with love to Crunchy Creamy Sweet Blue Ribbon Challenge, Gooseberry Patch Recipe Round-UpMichelle's Tasty Creations Creative ThursdayIt's a Piece O' Cake Linky PartyFive Little Chefs Fantastic ThursdayThe Frugal Girls Chic & Crafty Party, Simple Living Foodie FridayWeekend PotluckThe Saturday Pinterest PartyA Pinteresting Party, Melt in Your Mouth MondayMix It Up Monday, Show Me What Ya GotTout It Tuesday and What's Inside the Gunny Sack.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What's in the oven? More lemon love!

I think I'm in a bit of a lemon rut! It's a good thing I like lemons. And blueberries.

Tyler Florence has many wonderful dessert recipes using fresh fruit -especially berries - that all seem to really bring out the flavors of the fruit and make the dessert shine. This recipe is no exception. Tyler's tart has a wonderful burst of lemon flavor accentuated by the sweetness of the blueberries. It's a perfect summer dessert!

The dough couldn't be any easier to mix and handle. I didn't have any difficulty with it, at all. Instead of making one big tart, I decided to make little bite-sized mini tarts using a muffin pan. I cut my dough into 2 inch circles and pressed them into the pan, added a few blueberries to each baked shell and then the lemon filling. They turned out great!

Tyler Florence's Blueberry-Lemon Tart

Tart Crust

1 1/2 cups flour

2 tbsp. sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1 egg, separated

2 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. ice water

Pulse the flour, sugar, and salt together in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the dough resembles cornmeal. Add the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons ice water and pulse again until the dough pulls together. Shape the dough into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Roll the dough up onto the pin and lay it inside a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough into the edges of the pan and fold the excess dough inside to reinforce the rim. Cover the tart pan with plastic wrap and put it into the refrigerator for another 30 minutes to rest.
To bake the shell, heat the oven to 350° F.
Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. Cover the shell with a piece of parchment paper and fill it with pie weights or dry beans. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights. Lightly beat the egg white with 1 teaspoon water and brush it onto the bottom and sides of the tart shell; set aside to cool.

Tart Filling
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup lemon juice (about 5 lemons, if using fresh)
1/4 cup cream
zest of one lemon
pinch of salt
2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice, cream, zest, and salt. Add the blueberries to the cooled tart shell and pour the filling over the blueberries. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The curd should jiggle slightly when done. Cool to room temperature, remove from the tart ring, and serve.


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Friday, June 15, 2012

Tyler Florence's Ultimate Southern Style

I think the first time I heard anything about Chef Tyler Florence was when he teamed with Applebee's in an effort to attract a younger dining audience to the restaurant. Since becoming familiar with his name in the commercials for Applebee's, I became acquainted with his style watching his show Tyler's Ultimate on Food Network and later, on Cooking Channel.

For those of you not yet familiar with Chef Tyler Florence, he is a graduate of the College of Culinary Arts and has hosted several television shows on Food Network. In addition to authoring many cooking books, he also owns several kitchen retail shops and signature restaurants.

Like Chef Anne Burrell and Ina Garten, Chef Florence introduces brilliant recipes to the home cook. He also shares many (many, many) GREAT cooking techniques that were once well-guarded secrets within the culinary set. Most of these techniques are not included in recipes, but they are worth their weight in gold and I learned so many of them from watching Tyler Florence. I have yet to make one of his recipes that was not completely delicious. I chose this week's recipe because I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone and make a dish I was not familiar with - or in this case, one I hadn't had since I was a very little girl living on an Air Force base near Selma, Alabama.

Ultimate Shrimp and Grits

For the Grits:

3 cups milk

3 cups cream

1 cup stone-ground white cornmeal

2 tbsp. butter

salt & pepper

Place a 3-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add the milk and cream. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal. When the grits begin to bubble, turn the heat down to medium low and simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Allow to cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and thick. Remove from heat and stir in the butter, thin it out with a little extra cream. Season with salt and pepper.

For the Shrimp:

olive oil

1 medium white onion, diced

1 garlic clove, finely diced

1 lb. andouille or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed (if necessary) and cut into chunks

1/4 cup flour

2 cups chicken stock (low sodium)

2 bay leaves

2 lbs. large shrimp, peeled & deveined with tails left on

pinch of red pepper flakes

1/2 lemon, juiced

salt & pepper

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

4 green onions, slices

While the grits are cooking, start the shrimp. Place a skillet over medium heat and coat with the olive oil, about two turns of the pan. Add the onion; saute for 2 minutes to soften. Add the sausage and cook, stirring, until there is a fair amount of fat in the pan and the sausage is brown. Add the garlic and cook for just a minute. Sprinkle in the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to create a roux. Slowly pour in the chicken stock and continue to stir to avoid lumps. Toss in the bay leaves. When the liquid comes to a simmer, add the shrimp. Poach the shrimp in the stock for 2 to 3 minutes, until they are firm and pink and the gravy is smooth and thick. Add the red pepper flakes and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper; stir in the parsley and green onion. Spoon the grits into a serving bowl. Add the shrimp, sausage and gravy; mix well. Serve immediately with Tabasco sauce, if you like a little more heat.

I'm so glad I decided on the grits. I'd forgotten what a terrific alternative they are to potatoes or rice. We'll definitely be having grits more often!

This post is linked with love to the following:


Foodie Friends Friday - Robyn's View

I'm thrilled to introduce to all of you, my second feature for Foodie Friends Friday - Robyn's View!!

I came to know Robyn of Robyn's View at a linky party. It must be a sign of aging because I can't remember which party we were at, but . . . . .

I remember EXACTLY what link introduced me to Robyn and her lovely website:

her luxurious Coconut Sugar Scrub!

Since then I've discovered she is also a creative cook with recipes for:

fruity, sweet Blueberry Crescent Rolls and,

wonderful Homemade Vanilla Extract! (Aren't those bottles gorgeous?)

Not so long ago, Robyn was nominated for the Sunshine Award (yay!). Part of receiving the award is a little Q & A so readers can become better acquainted with you. Here's Robyn's answers to the questions she was asked when she won the award so you can know her better, too:

Favorite Color - I love the color blue!

Favorite Animal - Dogs of course! I love my fur babies as much as I love my kids! We have four dachshund's, Roxie, Snickers, Deuce, and Charlotte.

Favorite Number - I have an obsession with the number four. I can't seem to control it! When I go grocery shopping I have to buy four of each item! My excuse is that I'm just good at stocking up! (I don't want to scare anyone away, I really can go shopping and not buy four of everything .....sometimes I buy more!)

Favorite Drink - Hot Chocolate with or without Baileys Irish Cream. I am a hot chocolate snob!! I am as picky about my hot chocolate as some people are with their coffee.

Facebook or Twitter - Facebook! I don't know how to twitter!

My Passion - Researching my family history! It has been my hobby for YEARS and I love it! It is a never ending story.

Giving or Getting Presents - Giving! It is fun to try and figure out something special for the people you love!

Favorite Day - Any day I am not at work!!

Favorite Flowers - I don't really have a favorite flower. They are all pretty.

Robyn features many DIY recipes at Robyn's View - some for the home and cleaning and some (my favorites, by the way) are the beauty/personal care recipes, like her post this week for:

Please stop by and visit Robyn and her lovely website, Robyn's View. You'll love it! I guarantee it.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What's in the Oven? Ina Loves Lemons & So Do I!

Better late than never, huh? I apologize for being late with this week's "What's in the oven?" post. I've been busy getting ready for the Teapot Days Arts/Crafts Fair coming up this Saturday. My friend, Susan and I will be there as "Pet Pit Stop". We'll have a wonderful selection of homemade dog treats, Fido Fashion bandanas, cat trees, one-of-a-kind treat jars and more! We'll also be donating a portion of our sales to the Humane Society. If you'd like more information about Pet Pit Stop, any of our items or Teapot Days, please see our event listing on Facebook. You can also contact me or Susan at Thanks!

Well, it's no secret how much Ina Garten loves lemons. She uses them quite often in her cooking and baking. I especially love the lemon-y vinaigrettes she creates. They're excellent on fresh salad greens. Susan, her son, Joseph, and fiance, Harry love lemons almost as much as Ina does. Whenever I make something lemon-y, I usually can find at least three willing participants to give my kitchen creations a try. Ina's moist lemon yogurt cake does not disappoint!

Ina Garten's Lemon Yogurt Cake

1 lemon, thinly sliced & seeded

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup lemon juice (use one of the zested lemons)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup plain yogurt

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 3 extra-large eggs

  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)*

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 - 2 tbsp. poppyseeds (I used 1)

  • Bring 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a saucepan. Add lemon slices and simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer lemon slices to a waxed-paper-lined plate. Stir 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice into syrup (I used one of the zested lemons for this). Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan or a bundt pan. Be generous with the grease - you don't want your cake to stick! Arrange the lemon slices on the bottom of the pan.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil and poppyseeds into the batter, making sure they're all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40-50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place the cake on a serving platter. While the cake is still warm, brush the lemon-sugar syrup over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

And, yes, you can eat the lemon slices! But, if you'd prefer the cake without them, just omit the lemon slices on the bottom of the pan.

* I saved the zested lemons and used them in Ina's Chicken Provencal!

This post is linked with love to the following: