I was late to the Chip & Joanna Gaines “Fixer Upper” phenomenon. I happened to turn on HGTV one weekend last fall when I needed some background noise while I cleaned house and a Fixer Upper marathon was on. I ended up spending more time taking breaks to watch the show than I spent on cleaning. I was hooked on the transformations this sweet couple was able to bring about on some of the most hopeless looking homes. I started watching pretty much every time I found several episodes on in a row and soon found myself wanting to visit Waco, TX. Every time I’ve mentioned this desire I’ve had multiple people express the same feeling. I even lived the trip vicariously through one friend’s Facebook posts.
A whole lot of butter January 13, 2018
You may recall my blog about making body scrubs as Christmas gifts last year. If not you can read it here. My friend, we’ll call her Bee, was so impressed with my creativity and the quality of the scrub I gave her, she asked if I knew anything about using cocoa butter. She had a block of it and wasn’t sure what to do with it. I didn’t have any experience myself but knew a number of lotions used cocoa butter so I told her I’d look for some recipes.
A Cheesy Celebration February 9, 2015
I love cheese. I’m fascinated with how many different types of cheese there are and want to try them all. A couple of years ago, when it was just me and my parents for Christmas, we started a new Christmas Eve tradition. We went to Candlelight Service, came home to a spread of hors d’oeuvres-chocolate caramel popcorn, spinach dip, cheese, crackers, and glog- then watched a movie. It’s a nice quiet evening to reflect on what Christmas is really about.
This year, I noticed that the Aldi I shop at started having specialty cheeses a few weeks before Christmas. I bought up every one of them for our Christmas Eve nosh. We had Jarlsberg, Parmesan Regiano, Prima Donna, Tomato Basil, Jalapeño Jack, Fontina, and Cranberry White Cheddar. I’ve been wanting to try the Parmesan Regiano since I read about it in one of Frances Mayes’ books. It wasn’t my favorite as a stand-alone cheese, but it is great in cooking.
As you might imagine, with all of this cheese we couldn’t possibly eat it all in one night. Mom found a recipe that used the Fontina along with a Marscapone cheese, to make what is basically a fancy mac & cheese. The recipe sounded so good, I used it in the book I was working on, Spring Dawn, and when I finished the first draft we made a batch to celebrate. Shredding all of the Fontina seemed to take forever, but it was worth it. Next time I think I would add some bacon bits though, to give it a little more kick.
The left over Jarlsberg has made a wonderful evening snack and now I have three more varieties to snack on from Ireland, Wales, and Britain. I better have a few slices then get back to work.
Orange Cake for Easter April 21, 2014
I was in the grocery store this weekend, forgetting how crazy the stores are the day before a holiday. I’m a precision shopper. I know what I want and 98% of the time I know exactly where it is so I can get in and out quickly. Unfortunately, most of the other shoppers I encountered on Saturday had no idea what they wanted and they clogged the aisles as they read labels or studied the shelves. I waited patiently behind one woman whose cart was parked on one side of the aisle while she stood in the middle of the aisle reading the label on a bottle of maple syrup. Then two other women came flying past, nearly running over the label reader and narrowly missing a large stock cart.
Every aisle was like a lane of traffic during rush hour, carts parked or crawling at turtle-like speeds. All of the chaos made me forget the only two ingredients, buttermilk and orange extract, I actually needed to make the mini Bundt cakes I had planned to make for Easter. Fortunately, I was able to stop at a less crowded store and pick up the buttermilk and I managed to make fresh squeezed orange juice work for the orange extract. Knowing the stores would be closed on Sunday in honor of Easter was the only thing that made all of the congestion bearable. I’m happy to support businesses that recognize the importance of honoring such an important day.
With my family all out of state, I was grateful to be invited over to a friends’ house for dinner to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior. My small contribution to the meal was dessert, Orange Mini Bundt Cakes from the May/June issue of Tea Time.
Orange Mini Bundt Cakes
Makes 10-18 cakes
Depending on the size of your pans
1½ cps plus 3 tablespoons sifted cake flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup salted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups sugar
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons fresh orange zest
1 teaspoon orange extract
½ cup whole buttermilk
Garnish: Confectioners’ sugar
*Preheat oven to 325 degrees
*Spray 2 (12 well) mini Bundt cake pans with nonstick baking spray with flour
(I used two 6 well pans and the batter filled 10)
*In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda, whisking well. Set aside.
*In a large bowl, combine butter and sugars. Beat at high speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Add orange zest and orange extract, beating to combine.
*Add flour mixture to butter mixture in thirds, alternately with buttermilk, beating at low speed until incorporated. Divide batter evenly among wells of prepared pans. Tap pans on countertop to level batter and reduce air bubbles.
*Bake unit cakes are golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in the centers comes out clean, approximately 20 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans for 5 minutes. Transfer to wire cooling racks, and let cool completely.
*Before service, garnish cakes with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar.
Make-ahead tip: Cakes can be made a week in advance and frozen in an airtight container. Let thaw completely before garnishing and serving.
Tart the New Year Off Right January 5, 2014
I’m in heaven with my ripe lemons. This evening my mom asked what we could have for dessert. All of the Christmas cake and pie was gone, there was no more ice cream, and the cookie jar is nearly empty. I told her not to worry, I have lemons and a new recipe to give a whirl. To the backyard I went, plucking three giant beauties.
I zested and juiced only one of these beasts, yielding 1/2 cup of juice and at least as much zest. I whisked together the few ingredients and filled my tartlet pans, in 15 minutes we would have dessert to feed my hard-working man. You too can have these lovely tarts in no time flat, just grab a few things: (more…)
Lemons for Christmas December 29, 2013
I hope you all had a nice Christmas. Growing up we always had a big Christmas breakfast after opening gifts and then my mom would have to go to work from 3:00-11:00 so we never really developed the tradition of a big dinner of Christmas Day. Even after she moved from the hospital to the doctor’s office with the holiday off, we didn’t really develop a specific meal for the day, and I’m happy about that, because it gives a chance to try new things.
I had no idea all the goodness I was missing by not reading Southern Living until this first edition came and I found a recipe for Lemon-Rosemary-Garlic Chicken and Potatoes. My lemons are FINALLY ripe so there was no question this would be our Christmas dinner. I made sure we had everything we would need and went to sleep Christmas Eve with lemons, rather the sugar plums, dancing in my head. (What is a sugar plum anyway?)
The big day came, we opened our gifts, ate our breakfast, then went for a drive. I’ve been wanting to tour the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge for months now to shoot some photos and video for my new book trailer. Who knew we’d spend most of the day exploring, visiting places my dad hadn’t seen in twenty years or more? By the time we came home, we were too tired to cook so we nibbled on cake and pie, cheese and popcorn.
Never fear, though. I wasn’t going to let my lemons go to waste. We made our new dish the following day and enjoyed it all the more for the extended anticipation.
The lemon tree still bears plenty of fruit and I have a hankering for some fresh lemon tarts as soon as all of the other treats are gobbled up.
Key-Lime Pie Mini Trifles March 18, 2013
Have you been thinking about the mini key-lime pie trifles all week? I have, so I thought I’d share the recipe with you. I needed 16 servings so I doubled the recipe, yet I ended up with enough custard and whipped cream to make 6 key-lime tarts as well. Those are now in my freezer for a quick treat when I’m having a sweet craving. There are three steps in this process, the custard recipe can be used in a Boston Cream pie mini trifle as well. Recipe from Tea Time magazine, May/June 2011 issue.
Start by mixing up your Vanilla Bean Custard. This recipe will make approximately 2 ½ cups and takes about 25 minutes to make.
2 ½ cups whole milk
½ vanilla bean, split, scraped, and seeds reserved
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
- In a large saucepan, combine milk and reserved vanilla-bean seeds. Scald milk over medium-high heat.
- In a large bowl, combine egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt, whisking well to combine. Slowly add scalded milk, whisking well.
- Return mixture to large saucepan. Bring to a boil for 1 minute over medium-high heat, whisking continuously. Remove from heat. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
Next you will need to make your whipped cream unless you plan on using store bought. I highly recommend making your own though. It is so light and easy to whip up. I’ve also learned that if you put the mixer beaters in the freezer for a short time before whipping the cream it speeds up the process.
2 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
- In a large bowl, beat whipping cream at high speed with an electric mixture until soft peaks form. Slowly add confectioner’s sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until needed.
Finally, you add key-lime elements to your Vanilla-Bean custard. You will need to add:
2 cups Vanilla-Bean custard
3 tablespoons key-lime juice
2 tablespoons lime zest
2 cups graham-cracker crumbs
2 cups whipped cream
- In a medium bowl, combine Vanilla-Bean custard, key-lime juice, and lime zest, mixing well. Set aside.
- In another medium bowl, combine graham-cracker crumbs and sugar.
- In 8 minature trifle dishes, layer half of graham-cracker mixture, half of custard, and half of whipped cream. Repeat layers with remaining ingredients.
- Garnish with lime slices if desired.
As I mentioned, I doubled the recipe for the custard and whipped cream. I had extra graham-cracker crumbs as well so I pulled out my mini-tart pans, baked a graham-cracker crust and poured the extra custard in. I froze these then added the whipped cream, it spread much easier on the frozen custard. I then put them back in the freezer until the whipped cream was frozen and I could wrap them up. I’m looking forward to snacking on these over the next few weeks.