Come On Over

Sometimes I visit this space with a plethora of words and ideas that tumble over themselves as they escape my brain. Sometimes I sit down here to work through a knotty problem out loud. I talk to myself in real life too but there is something about being able to see my words and rearrange them, moving them to their proper place and finding the right order for my thoughts that satisfies.

Sometimes people read what I’ve written and agree or enjoy them and a conversation blooms. Other times a post I am particularly happy with does not get much traction. But the same thing happens with pictures so I don’t sweat it much. I realize I am not writing anything new or taking pictures of things that no one else has ever seen or taken a picture of before. There is a lack of pressure in that knowledge which allows me to slip in here as if we’re grabbing a cup of coffee and just visiting. Or maybe a better description in sitting down with a cup of coffee to read a letter from a friend.

The weather here this morning is pretty blah with a significant storm system moving through later. We took down my hanging plants and moved all my recently potted flowers onto the porch last night in preparation.

Did I tell you about my first experience with planting flowers here in my new lovely home state of Louisiana? About a month ago Rob and I took advantage of a local hardware store’s no tax weekend and bought lots of plants for me to put in the ground. Since my success with flowers and such last year I have been chomping at the bit for spring to arrive. Well, let me tell you…the ground here is nothing like the ground in Florida!

I dug and dug for about twenty minutes and barely scratched out three inches of earth. The ground is so hard here, especially it seems in the area of Carlyss where we live. I decided it would be messy to use the hose but I have rain boots so I could soften the ground with water and dig my holes.

😳

The ground is a dark hard clay that doesn’t absorb water the way the sandy soil in my old yard did. I ended up with a nice ol’ mud puddle for my trouble. Hence I now have about sixteen potted plants and Rob is going to have to get cracking on building me some raised beds.

The people we bought our home from are finally moving to Nashville and slowly but surely getting their stuff out of our pasture. Which means I am spending a lot of time day dreaming about the garden space Rob is letting me design and we are trying to figure out where to put the vegetable garden and a chicken house.

So many projects and plans! My beloved has to keep me reigned in because I can go shooting off in a dozen different directions at a time. My mind hops from flowers to looking at chicken coop plans to knocking down walls to reconfigure the apartment space for Sam now that Emily lives in Monroe. (That was a weird minute for me. Realizing that when she got back from her honeymoon she would not be coming here again. She doesn’t live with us anymore. I mean I was at the wedding. I knew this already. But it just sort of hit me.)

It’s been great having a space for friends to use when they’ve come to visit. I enjoy getting it ready and stocking the little mini fridge and having a tray of snacks ready.

We haven’t started renovating the space yet though so you can come for a visit if you like. We can sit down and have a cup of coffee and conversation in real life.

Of course my Louisiana people are welcome to stop by for a visit anytime. The door is open and the coffee is ready! Y’all can teach me how to grow things around here 😊

DPP ~ Day 8

I love cold weather. Winter is actually my second favorite season right after autumn. Those two facts are rather ironic considering that I live in Florida where we don’t really get much of either of those two seasons but we do get cool weather and I was delighted to have soup weather today.

My love and I have been on a Top Chef kick lately and it has really gotten us out of our comfort zones and trying different recipes and such. It’s funny to see how we both interact with it because I am focusing more on homey comfort food while Rob has been getting more adventurous with Asian food. (The man has perfected a killer spicy chicken with rice dish.)

Because it was colder today I did make a new soup recipe and it turned out okay I thought. Oddly enough I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would but Rob and Claire both gave it a thumbs up. Abigail doesn’t like onions so she tasted a spoonful and promptly popped open a can of cream of chicken soup.

This was only the second time I had cooked with leeks and I have to say we really like them! (Last night was also a new comfort food recipe…one that I really enjoyed but it has a good sourdough bread and cheese so what’s not to enjoy?)

Today’s dpp is actually a picture I took today while prepping for the carmelized onion and garlic bisque. The leeks just have a pretty color and fun shapes, don’t you think?

Pinterest Test Kitchen #100 ~ Flourless Chocolate Cake

I’ve been sitting on this recipe for just the right time to share it and I think posting my 100th Pinterest Test Kitchen qualifies, don’t you?

It’s rich.

It’s decadent.

It’s a chocolate lover’s dream.

It even gets points for being naturally gluten free.

It’s also versatile. I’ve made it as a single layer cake in a torte pan and I’ve made little minis too.

And unless you are having a no good very bad day like the one I was having here while making it, it is super simple and you probably have everything you need on hand to make it and that is a big bonus right there.

What you’ll need for the cake:
 1 cup chocolate chips (I’ve used semi sweet and dark chocolate, either is fine)
1 stick butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup cocoa powder (again I have used regular cocoa powder and dark chocolate)
2 tsp espresso powder or instant coffee (made it with and without and it’s tasty either way)
For the ganache:
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
What you’ll do:
Preheat over to 375 degrees
Melt chocolate chips and butter until combined
Pour into a bowl and add the sugar and espresso powder if you’re using it, stirring until thoroughly mixed
Add eggs and whisk until batter is smooth
Add in cocoa powder and stir
Pour into a well greased cake pan (you may want to use parchment paper but I’ve not had any problems just using Baker’s Joy)
Bake for 20 minutes (I’ve started cooking mine for 18 minutes because I noticed my edges getting too done at the full 20 minutes.)
While the cake is baking make your ganache by heating your heavy whipping cream and chocolate chips until smooth and well blended (be careful not to allow your cream to get too hot and keep stirring as the chocolate melts)
Let the cake cool for ten minutes and them flip it onto a plate
Pour ganache over the top and allow it to drizzle over the sides
Let the cake sit out for about 30 minutes before refrigerating for at least an hour before serving
Top with a dollop of whipped topping and garnish with raspberries

Grab a fork and bite into that deliciously chocolate dream and sigh with utter satisfaction.

I realize that a one layer cake doesn’t seem like much but this dessert is really rich so a little slice will do ya. Also, to make the mini cakes I’ve used the silicone pan and I’ve also used just a regular mini muffin pan. I think once I got really crazy and used the mini bunt cake pan I have but decided that was a wee bit more work than I wanted to put into it with not much return.

I’ve also learned that while you do need to refrigerate it so the ganache can set you want to take it out and let it sit for a few minutes before serving.

So yeah, this is my 100th post that I’ve tagged (or tried to remember to tag) as either Pinterest Test Kitchen or simply Test Kitchen. You can enter either of those into the search bar near the bottom of the blog to pull up all the post in the series or you can go here to where I have most of them saved onto a pinterest board.

I’d love to know what you have found on pinterest and tried!

Pinterest Test Kitchen #97 ~ Banana Pudding Cupcakes

A while back I hosted a baby shower for my niece who loves banana pudding. Because I am all about the presentation I just did not want to put a bowl full of banana pudding on the pretty dessert table and I did not want to do individual cups either for some reason that I no longer remember. I’m sure it was a good one though.

Because Pinterest is magic it didn’t take long for me to discover banana pudding cupcakes and they were a hit at the shower! I’ve made them twice now and tweaked the recipe a little the second go round and probably have one more adjustment that I’ll make the next time I make them.

The first time I followed the recipe exactly with the exception of using banana flavored pudding. (I totally got suckered by the Minion packaging.) I wasn’t a huge fan of the cupcake itself so the next time I made them I used this recipe for the cupcake and added mashed bananas to the batter. And while no one complained of the pudding I found it to be too thick so I will probably change it to just regular banana cream pudding and not make it with the sweetened condensed milk next time.

What you’ll need:

12 to 15 cupcakes 
1 box instant vanilla pudding (or banana cream), prepared
Nilla wafers, about 1/3 cup crushed and 12 to 15 whole ones for garnish
Cool whip
What you’ll do:
Hollow out a portion of each cupcake being sure not to go all the way to the bottom.
Sprinkle the Nilla wafer crumbs into each cupcake.
Spoon the pudding into the holes with enough extra to do a layer of pudding across the top of the cupcake.
Ice the cupcakes with the cool whip.
Garnish with the Nilla wafer.

Enjoy!

Pinterest Test Kitchen #94 ~ Pioneer Woman’s Chocolate Pie

In the very beginning of my Pinterest Test Kitchen posts I merely linked to the recipe and shared any changes I made and what our overall reaction was to the recipe. Then for some reason I started typing them completely out and only linking to the original source. Actually I think the reason was because I hate clicking on a link expecting a recipe but then having to click through to another site just to get to it. Terribly lazy of me I know and somewhat hypercritical because I am going to probably start including more of those kinds of posts again.  Why reinvent the wheel, right? I’m sure that upon occasion I will still type out the whole thing but for today I am going to link to a delicious homemade pie from Pioneer Woman.

The only real thing I would change would be not using my large pie plate. As you can see it made for a thinner pie and pie should never be thin.

That homemade chocolate pudding filling?

So.Good.

I’ve actually bought the stuff to make a white chocolate version. Doesn’t that sound just delicious with raspberries on top? I’ll let you know how it turns out when I make it!

Pinterest Test Kitchen # 92 ~ Italian Cranberry Orange Pound Cake

Have you ever smelled something and the scent instantly transported you to a long ago memory? Noxzema does that for me. I smell it and immediately my mind is flooded with childhood recollections of sandy beaches and sunburns. Isn’t it remarkable how God engineered us so that scents and tastes can bring to mind such vivid memories?

One bite of this cake is a reminiscent mouthful of Christmas past. Seriously, it is the flavor of Christmas with its tangy orange zest, fresh cranberries and spicy overtones. The cranberries give it a zing like the crisp winter air. Rather poetic I know but really, it is the flavor of the holidays I think. Try it and let me know what you think.

cranberries_oranges_pound_cake_ homemade

What you’ll need:
For the cake ~
3 cups of flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cups sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup orange juice
2 TBS orange zest*
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese**
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 cups fresh cranberries
orange_zest_cranberries
What you’ll do:
Whisk the first three ingredients together and set aside.
Cream butter and sugar together until smooth.
Add eggs one at a time.
Mix in the vanilla, orange juice & zest, spices, and mascarpone cheese until well combined.
Add in half of the flour mixture. 
Stir in the buttermilk.
Mix in the remaining flour mixture just until the flour disappears.
Gently fold in cranberries.***
Pour into a well greased bundt pan. (I am a huge fan of Bakers Joy.)
Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 to 20 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.
Let cake rest for 5 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.
Coat the cake with the orange glaze and allow to completely cool.
Pour the orange cream cheese frosting over the cake.
Orange glaze:
Mix 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar with 1/3 cup orange juice until smooth.
Orange cream cheese frosting:
Mix together 4 oz softened cream cheese with 1 TBS orange zest, 1/4 cup of orange juice, and 2 cups confectioners sugar until smooth.

This is one of those cakes that really taste even better the day after you make it and the flavors have all gotten cozy with each other so don’t be afraid to make it up ahead of time!

*    Orange zest…smells so good!
**  If you can’t find mascarpone cheese you can use 1/2 cup sour cream.
***My family enjoyed the cake but found the cranberries a little too tart for their liking. I figure the         next time I make this I may reduce the amount down or leave them out all together.

Pinterest Test Kitchen #91 ~ Nanny’s Oatmeal Pie

It has been over two months since I shared a recipe?! To make up for it I have a really scrumptious pie recipe for you and it’s just in time for the holidays!

A pie confession…I’ve never been a huge fan of pecan pie which I know can get me kicked out of the South but there you have it. It always made my teeth feel weird. The thing is though that I love the center non-pecanny part. But it’s rude to scrape off all of the pecan topping so it’s always just been off my menu.

But then I came across this recipe and oh my goodness, it is just like a whole pie that is made up of only the inside of a pecan pie and it is the best thing ever! It’s got just the right amount of chewiness and crunchiness. It was a big hit at my church (our weekly fellowship meals are my testing ground for new recipes) and will definitely get made again.

oatmeal_pie_homemade_goodness_pie_recipe
What you’ll need:
1 9 inch uncooked pie crust 
6 TBS butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cups regular corn syrup
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup regular oats
What you’ll do:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Cream together the sugar and butter.
Mix in the corn syrup, eggs, and vanilla.
Stir in oats.
Pour into pie shell.
Bake for 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and the center is only slightly jiggly.

Serve plain (it is seriously so very, very good!) or I guess you could throw in a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you like.

recipe_oatmeal_pie_homemade

What kind of pies and desserts do you have during the holidays?

What’s Up

So the blogging is sporadic but it is happening and that’s good, right? It’s something anyway.

It’s been a busy few days around here.

Last Thursday was Grandparent’s Day at the kids school and then on Friday we had our annual gala/auction. It’s one of the two major fundraisers we do each year and a personal favorite because it’s an excuse to get all gussied up and be fancy. My friend loaned me her dress and I looooved the lacey bottom!

Saturday morning the girls and I went to a baby shower that had a woodland theme. How precious is this little hedgehog cheese ball and cute owl veggie tray. Pinterest is the bees knees for ideas, y’all!

Saturday evening I spent some time with a lovely family doing some generation pictures. Those are some of my favorite sessions. There is something really special about seeing where God has taken the love of two people and multiplied it.

Sunday was a lovely reformation celebration at church complete with games and face painting.

The church also surprised Rob with a really fun birthday gift. There is a long running joke within the church and suffice it to say that among other things Rob will be the proud owner of a pair of cowboy boots as soon as he can get to the store with his gift certificate.

Monday was a fun Halloween night complete with friends, hot dogs and mac-n-cheese, and giant marshmallows. One hundred thirty-five chocolate dipped giant marshmallows to be exact along with 4 gallons of lemonade and three pitchers of ice water. Everyone is always so grateful for the drinks and I wonder why it took me so long to come up with the idea of that simple show of hospitality for the neighborhood?

Hoping things will slow down a little but we’ll see. November is here and that pretty much puts the holiday season in high gear.

So what are you up to?

Pinterest Test Kitchen # 90 ~ Chicken Rice and Black Bean Casserole

This recipe quickly became a house favorite and I make it every couple of weeks. When I find something that both Rob and the majority of the kids like I get so excited…especially when it is easy and goes far.

I didn’t realize how much I had tweaked this recipe until I typed it out but I did make some changes. The original dish didn’t call for the chicken but it is a rare meal that I serve that has no meat. I also never seem to remember the zucchini. I double the salsa and I am pretty sure I never saute the spinach. It’s barely looking like the same recipe (read that with an eye roll.)

food_Mexica_blackbeans_rice_chicken_casserole

What you’ll need:
2 cups cooked rice (I use brown rice cooked in chicken broth)
2 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1 15 oz can black beans, drained
1 bag fresh spinach, chopped
1 10 oz bag frozen corn (I’ve also used can corn, drained, since I had it on hand)
1 16 oz jar salsa of choice (I use Newman’s Own Black Bean and Corn)
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes 
2 cups grated cheese (I’ve used cheddar, Colby Jack, and a mix of all the bags in the fridge, etc.)
What you’ll do:
Mix the first seven ingredients together in a large bowl.
Stir in 1 cup of the cheese.
Spoon mixture into a 9×13 dish.
Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

blackbean_rice_chicken_casserole_mexican_food

Serve as is or with sour cream and enjoy!

You can find this recipe along with all of my other test kitchen recipes here!

Pinterest Test Kitchen # 88 ~ 7 Up Biscuits

You’ve probably seen the recipe before. I come across it frequently on Pinterest and finally decided to try it out.

biscuits_homemade_bread

As far as recipes go it couldn’t be any simpler…four ingredients. And since three of the ingredients get cooked in the forth, melted butter, they are quite tasty.

What you’ll need:
4 cups Bisquick
1 cup sour cream
1 cup 7 Up  (Notice it is a cup of the soda and not a whole can.)
1/2 cup butter, melted
What you’ll do:
Melt the butter and pour it into a baking dish.
Mix together the sour cream and Bisquick.
Stir in the 7 Up.
Place dough on a well floured surface, use your hands to flatten it out until it is about an inch thick.
*Cut the biscuits out.
(The dough is really sticky and you may need to dip your cutter into flour after each cut.)
Place the biscuits in the buttered pan.
Bake at 425 degrees or until a nice golden brown.
This recipe made two dozen biscuits. I cut it in half and used gluten free Bisquick in a smaller batch and they turned out fine.
homemade_breakfast_bread_biscuits

They didn’t really rise so if you’re expecting a big fluffy biscuit you are bound to be disappointed. However, they do have a good flavor and I think would do well on the breakfast table…especially paired with some jam or honey. We don’t drink soda on a regular basis so it’s not exactly an on-hand recipe for me but I will keep it in the make again pile 🙂

*In the past I’ve just always used a regular glass to cut out biscuits, no big deal, right? This time I wised up and used what the kids refer to as our fancy glasses. It was like having a nice handle on the cutter. I guess I could break down and buy a actual biscuit cutter since Sarah and I both seem to be delving into bread making but I don’t think it would be as fun to use as the fancy glass.