Friday, January 30, 2009

Sweet Corn Cake (Chi Chi's CopyCat)

This is one of my all time favorite foods. It's just so sweet and delicious. It used to be on the menu at Chi Chi's Mexican restaurant but the restaurant is now closed. I found this recipe in Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilber, who is a copy cat genius in my opinion. All of the recipes I've tried of his are wonderful. This one is no exception. Don't let the "water bath" scare you off. It helps keep this dish moist and soft. The only ingredient that may require a bit of searching is the masa harina, a Mexican corn flour. The Wal-Mart here carries it as does the local grocery store, so hopefully it's easy to find everywhere. Believe me, it's worth the effort!

Sweet Corn Cake

1/2 stick butter, softened
1/3 masa harina
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream (half and half works too)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat butter in a medium bowl until creamy. Add masa harina and water to butter and mix until well combined.

Place defrosted corn into a blender or food processor with short pulses, coarsely chop on low speed, leaving several whole kernels of corn. Stir chopped corn into butter mixture. Add cornmeal. Combine well.

In another bowl, combine sugar, cream, salt and baking powder. Pour mixture into butter mix and stir by hand.

Pour mixture in an ungreased 8 x 8 baking dish and flatten top out with a spoon. Cover pan with aluminum foil. Place pan into a larger baking pan filled about 1/3 of the way with hot water. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until cooked through. Remove corn cake pan from larger pan and let sit for 10 minutes. Serve.

"When we no longer have good cooking in the world, we will have no literature, nor high and sharp intelligence, nor friendly gatherings, no social harmony."
-Marie-Antoine CarĂªme

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

First Storm Of 2009

Usually, when the weather people predict a storm for our area, I take it with a grain of salt. What almost always happens is we get a dusting of the white stuff then everything passes either to the north or south of the city. However, this time the weather people were right on with the predictions. The ice storm started last night then progressed into a snow storm this afternoon, with several hours of rain in between.

The kids went from a 2 hour delay last night for school to a cancellation this morning. Good thing too. I went out and drove in this mess all this morning and my car slipped several times. Eeeek! I hate ice.

Even the colleges and universities are shut down for tonight, a rare thing indeed. My husband always has to teach in the evenings, no matter the weather. Now he gets to come home after work! It's nice to get a break.

Since we are cooped up at home today, I made a big crock pot full of chili and we are all snuggling down next to the fireplace for a movie and dinner. Maybe we'll even toast marshmallows for dessert. Yay!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Smoky Mountain Snowcaps

One of the best gifts I received for Christmas was Southern Living's Best Loved Cookies book. I'm a big sucker for any baking recipe books (bet you all are surprised, right?!) Given that we have another big snow storm heading this way tonight, I decided that making cookies called "snowcaps" couldn't be a bad choice. The nutmeg adds great flavor, though I may experiment next time and add a little more. I also altered the way the cookies are placed on the baking sheet since I didn't like how they looked when they were just spooned on. They came out looking and tasting great!

Smoky Mountain Snowcaps

6 oz. white chocolate, melted
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Beat butter and 1 cup sugar at medium speed with electric mixer until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla and melted chocolate. Mix for 30 seconds.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Add to butter mixture, beating until just blended. Stir in toasted walnuts.

Roll dough into tsp. size balls. Place on lightly sprayed baking sheets. Press tops down slightly. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned on bottoms. Remove from baking sheet to cooling rack. Dust with powdered sugar.

Makes approx. 3 1/2 dozen.

"Getting an inch of snow is like winning 10 cents in the lottery."
-Bill Watterson

Friday, January 23, 2009

Lost In The 70's

If you are like me and grew up in the 70's, you know what a strange time it was. The 70's music (who could forget disco!), great rock bands, and very weird fashion was only the surface of what went on in that decade. This site brings back so many memories-

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Refrigerator Yeast Rolls

My quest continues to find just the right biscuit recipe and these sure do come close. And these are make ahead biscuits which is even better. I put them together in the morning and by the time the kiddies were getting ready for bed, these were coming out of the oven so nice and hot. We spread on the butter and jam and ate like crazy. Yum! This recipe makes enough for two 9 x 13 inch pans so I used some for dinner and froze the rest. And they are just as good out of the freezer.

Refrigerator Yeast Rolls

1 (1/4 oz) envelope active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
6 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening
2 large eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted

Stir together yeast and warm water in a medium bowl. Let mixture stand for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, and salt. Cut shortening into flour mixture with a pastry blender or a fork until crumbly. Stir in yeast mixture and eggs just until blended, being careful to not over mix. Chill covered for 8 hours.

Roll dough out to 1/4 inch thickness on a well floured surface (dough will be soft). Cut with a 1 1/2 inch round cutter (I used the top of a regular drinking glass dipped in flour). Re roll scraps as needed.

Brush rounds with melted butter. Using a butter knife, make a crease across each round and fold round in half. Gently press edges together to seal. Place close together in pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake rolls for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with butter and jam.
From Southern Living magazine, December 2008

“I think the butter's slipped off your biscuit."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pittsburgh's Going To The Super Bowl!

Oh Yeah! I can hardly contain my excitement. The Pittsburgh Steelers are going all the way to the Super Bowl! What a game last night between the Steelers and the Ravens. It was a bit of a nail biter in the fourth quarter but Troy Polamalu really pulled it off for us. That guy is everywhere on that field! I never thought we'd be here at this point in the season. The Steelers weren't playing all that great. They were winning games, but not by much. Here come the playoffs and whoosh! the team just takes off. And suddenly, we are facing the Super Bowl. Let's Go Steelers!

This video is an oldie from Super Bowl in 2006, but you get the picture of how nuts Pittsburgh is about the Steelers--

Friday, January 16, 2009

Festive Cupcakes

I used to think that using a cake mix in baking was a big no no. After all, I wanted my baking to stand out and that meant making it from scratch, no exceptions. After having kids, however, I quickly lost my uppity attitude! So when my middle daughter asked me to do cupcakes for her school's bake sale this week, I used a boxed mix. But I decided to dress it up a little. I used the batter to make a marble cake incorporating my daughter's school colors. I also made homemade icing since I don't like the canned icing from the store. The results were great and my kids were delighted. Good thing too, since school was cancelled today and now they have to eat all of the cupcakes themselves!

Festive Cupcakes

1 box (18.25 oz) French Vanilla cake mix, or any white cake mix
eggs, vegetable oil, and water (follow directions on the box)

Prepare cake mix following the directions on the box. Once mixed, remove 2 cups of batter, dividing between two small bowls. Choose two different food colors and tint batters in small bowls as desired. Line two cupcake pans with cupcake paper liners. Fill liners with about 2 tablespoons of plain batter. Add 1 tablespoon of tinted batter. Layer two tablespoons of plain batter over tinted then add 1 tablespoon of other tinted batter. Finish with plain batter. Run a toothpick a few times through batter in a swirling motion to blend colors. Do not over blend. Bake according to box directions. Frost when cool.


1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup softened butter
2 tsps. vanilla
4 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons milk, as needed

In a medium mixing bowl, beat shortening and butter together until well blended. Add vanilla and beat for at least 30 seconds. Slowly add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time until frosting is spreading consistency. Will frost 24 cupcakes generously. Decorate cupcakes as desired.

"We're encouraging them to bring healthy snacks, but when a parent comes up with a tray of sweets, I'm not going to turn them away. I don't want to be the cupcake killer."
-John Young

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Old Fashioned Banana Pudding

When I ventured to make this recipe, I didn't realize that the pudding was made from scratch. Though it was a little unnerving, I went ahead anyway. I was very happy with the results! It was so easy to make, I may never use boxed pudding again. For the frozen whipped topping, I substituted heavy cream whipped into stiff peaks. Either one would taste wonderful, though. This would make a great dessert for a party or family get together.

Old Fashioned Banana Pudding

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup water
1 cup evaporated milk (I used skim)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla
vanilla wafers
3 ripe bananas, sliced about 1/4 inch thick brushed with lemon juice to keep from browning
3 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed or 3 cups heavy whipping cream beat to stiff peaks. Add 1/4 cup sugar, or to taste

Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan. Stir in water, milk, and eggs. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Add butter and vanilla. Cook stirring constantly until butter melts.

Layer vanilla wafers into a large glass serving dish at least 6 inches deep, covering entire bottom. Evenly layer banana slices over vanilla wafers. Spoon cooled pudding over bananas then add a layer of whipped cream. Repeat layers. After smoothing over whipped cream, crush about 10 vanilla wafers and sprinkle over top.

"The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”
-Miguel de Cervantes, Spanish author (1547-1616)
‘Don Quixote de la Mancha’

Friday, January 9, 2009

Here We Go, Steelers!

Well, here we go again. The Steelers are in the playoffs. If no one has ever told you, Pittsburgh is definitely a sports town. And when the Steelers make the playoffs, which seems very often in the past few years, look out!

There are Steelers shirts everywhere. And Steeler hats, jackets, pants, magnets, flags, posters, signs, cakes, cookies, songs, etc. On and on. Today was Steeler day in all the schools. My kids, who all attend different schools (middle, elementary, etc), had to wear Steeler gear. And almost nobody forgets to dress up because everyone owns at least one Steeler shirt. And if you do forget, you really stick out!

The closer the Steelers get to the Super Bowl, the crazier the town becomes. The County Court House has a "Terrible Tree" out in front, decorated in "Terrible Towels" and other Steeler items. Signs go up everywhere. The news and the papers cover everything the Steelers say or do. The frenzy increases with each passing day before the next game.

Don't get me wrong, I love the Steelers and all the craziness that goes with being a fan. Even though I grew up in the South, whenever we could catch a Steeler game, the family watched it. I just didn't realize the scope of Steeler mania until I moved here :)

Even the famed bridges and underpasses in the "City of Bridges" aren't safe from Steeler fans. It's all in good fun and everyone goes along with it. I just hope they win and go on to the Super Bowl. As crazy as this city gets over the Steelers winning, they crash just as hard when they lose. So....Here We Go, Steelers!

"If I could start my life all over again, I would be a professional football player, and you damn well better believe I would be a Pittsburgh Steeler."
-Jack Lambert, 1990 HoF Introduction.

"We're a road team. We're the Pittsburgh Steelers. We have fans everywhere.”
-Troy Polamalu, Steeler Defensive Player

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Peach Crisp

Yesterday, I really wanted to make a nice dinner, with all the fixins. Our area was expecting a nasty ice storm so something warm and comforting for dinner sounded wonderful. Along with the crock pot chili and cheese corn bread, I baked a peach crisp. I froze a lot of peaches from summer just for something like this, but any cooking or frozen peaches will do. Easy, simple and so good!

Peach Crisp

5 to 6 cups sliced peaches (if frozen, thaw and drain all but 1/2 cup of liquid)
5 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 cup regular rolled oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened slightly

Place fruit in an oven safe 2 quart dish. Stir in granulated sugar.

In a medium bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, flour and spices. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until sides are browned and dessert is bubbling. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Note: Cut the topping ingredients in half if you like less sweet and more fruit.

"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home."
-Edith Sitwell

Monday, January 5, 2009

Peppermint Patties

If someone had told me about how easy it is to make peppermint patties, I'd have laughed and never believed them. Good thing I found out for myself! I ended up making two batches of the patties, since my family ate the entire first batch the day I made them. I wish I had thought to take a picture of the peppermints when I had the chance, but by the time it occured to me, these babies were gone again! I did include them on my cookie trays though, so if you look, you can see the dark chocolate candy sitting near the top of the tray. I can't wait to make these patties again!

Peppermint Patties

2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp. softened butter
2 tsp. peppermint extract
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. cream
8 oz dark chocolate, chopped (about 1 1/3 cup)
1 tbsp. vegetable shortening

Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. In a medium bowl, blend together sugar, butter, extracts, and cream on low speed. After blended, increase mixer speed to medium high and beat an additional 2 minutes or until mixture is creamy.

Using about a teaspoon size, roll candy into small balls and place on wax paper. Using your thumb, press top of ball down but do not flatten all the way. When completed, place cookie sheet into refrigerator and chill for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate and shortening in microwave (on 50% power) or over a double boiler until melted.

Using dipping tools or two forks, dip the candy into the chocolate one at a time. Remove excess chocolate by scraping bottom of candy on the side of the bowl. Place back on cookie sheet and refridgerate to harden chocolate. Store patties in the refrigerator.
Make about 36. Recipe is easily doubled.

"The only real way to look younger is not to be born so soon."
-Peppermint Patty from Charlie Brown

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Best French Onion Soup

One of the things I truly love about winter and the holidays is making and eating French Onion Soup. It is a tradition I am eager to establish in my home for Christmas Eve or even Christmas Day. It's so easy to make and the flavors are rich and satisfying. I've come across many recipes for this classic, but never one that outdid this recipe. Enjoy!

French Onion Soup

2 tablespoons butter
2 to 3 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
4 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons dry sherry (cooking sherry works fine) or dry white wine (optional)
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Black pepper, to taste
6 slice of French bread, toasted if desired
1 cup shredded Swiss or Gruyere cheese

In a large saucepan melt butter then add onions. Cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring as needed until golden brown and tender. Stir in broth, sherry, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper. Bring to boil then reduce heat to simmer and cook for 10 minutes, covered.

Once done, ladle soup into oven proof bowls and top with bread and sprinkle with cheese. Broil on high until cheese melts and turns light brown. Serve.

Note: This recipe serves 4-6. Can be easily doubled. From Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.

"The best kind of onion soup is the simplest kind."
-Ambrose Bierce