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Almond Joy Granola

Almond Joy Granola - Title Shot - Inside NanaBread's Head

Hi – me again; back with more dark chocolate. Forgive me, but I’m on a bender. Last week it was flourless peanut butter, Biscoff & dark chocolate cookies. This week it’s dark chocolate, coconut & almond granola, which is at least healthier. Stop laughing! It’s good for you, right? Okay, you be the judge.

NanaBread’s Almond Joy Granola:
4 cups old-fashioned oats (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
2 cups raw whole almonds
3 cups unsweetened coconut, the large flakes
4 tablespoons Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Start by lining two large baking sheets with parchment or Silpat mats. Spread the oats, almonds and coconut on baking sheets in a thin, even layer and toast at 350F for 10-15 minutes, or until the coconut is golden brown and the oats & nuts are fragrant. Remove from the oven and scrape the oats, almonds & coconut into a large mixing bowl; toss to combine.

In a saucepan, combine the agave nectar, honey, canola oil and butter. Cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the cocoa powder & salt, whisking until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and almond extracts. Pour the hot liquid mixture over the oat mixture and toss until everything is coated. (This smells SO GOOD the entire time you’re making it.)

Almond Joy Granola - Freshly Baked - Inside NanaBread's Head

Spoon the mixture back onto the lined baking sheets and pop them back into the oven (still at 350F) for 15 minutes. Stir or flip the mixture around and bake an additional 15 minutes, for a total baking time of around 30 minutes. It’s done when the edges are toasty and the mixture is only slightly sticky but very fragrant. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Store in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Almond Joy Granola - Baked - Inside NanaBread's Head

Options:
1. Nut allergies? Go Mounds and omit the almonds & almond extract.
2. Not a chocolate fan? Omit the cocoa and add dried fruit like cranberries or blueberries. Dried apricots & candied ginger would also be a great combination.
3. Grab a straw, because the chocolate almond milk left behind is delicious.

AJ Granola - Final Shot - Inside NanaBread's Head

Note: This recipe was adapted from a recipe found on Pinterest which was adapted from the Joy the Baker Cookbook; her version calls for cinnamon & granulated sugar and uses less coconut & nuts. But those are my favorite parts of granola, so I upped the volume of almonds & coconut, substituted agave nectar for the granulated sugar, added almond extract, and doubled the butter. I gotta be me.

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Sweets Week: Retro Raspberry Divinity & a sweet little giveaway for bakers

Divinity - Pans & Cups

That’s right, folks – this ain’t no modern homemade marshmallow trend. We’re kickin’ it old school with divinity, baby! This raspberry version is sure to soothe your savage sugar craving. It’s retro. It’s fluffy. And it’s pretty in pink.

Valentines’ Day may be for lovers, but let’s not forget that it’s also an excuse to celebrate SUGAR. Candy, chocolates, cupcakes, creme brulee… you name it, we’ll eat it. So join my blogging friends and I as we stop lookin’ for love in all the wrong places and start rummaging through the pantry for something sweet.

It’s Sweets Week, and we’re celebrating with sweets for your sweetie pies.

When I was a kid, my mother made divinity every Christmas. I remember little balls of white fluffy confection laced with chopped pecans like it was yesterday. While most kids were getting their divinity fix from a Stuckey’s Pecan Log, our Mom was shaming other mothers by making it at home. Mom rocked the 70’s.

The Pecan Log from Stuckey's - a blast from some poor kid's past. Photo via http://brucemctague.com/pecan-logs

The Pecan Log from Stuckey’s – a blast from some poor kid’s past. Photo credit to http://brucemctague.com/pecan-logs

But this ain’t my Mama’s divinity. This version is cooler. It’s hipper. And did I mention it’s PINK? That hue is due to yet another childhood favorite – Jello. That’s right. Good old-fashioned Jello. Raspberry to be exact, although I’ve also made this with cherry and I’m pretty sure it would rock in blackberry, too.

Here’s what you’ll need:
3 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup light (clear) corn syrup
3/4 cup water
3 egg whites
1 small (3-oz.) pkg. Jello (raspberry is shown)
3/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Start by lightly oiling an 11″ x 7″ pan, or you can use 4 miniature loaf pans like me. I sprayed them with regular Pam cooking spray, then wiped them gently with a paper towel so they were lightly oiled.

Next, combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a medium or large saucepan (you’ll need 4-5″ of headroom, because this will come to a furious boil and rise in the pan). Set it over medium-high heat and whisk it occasionally until it reaches 260F on a candy thermometer.

Divinity - Boiling the Syrup

When the sugar syrup reaches around 200F, start your egg whites. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip your egg whites until soft peaks begin to form.

Divinity - Whipping Egg Whites

Lower the speed and sprinkle in the Jello powder, whisking until combined.

Divinity - Adding Jello to Egg Whites

Turn the speed up to high and continue to beat until the Jello powder is incorporated and the egg whites hold their peaks.

Divinity - Egg Whites & Jello

Once the syrup mixture reaches 260F, turn the mixer to medium-low and slowly pour a thin stream of syrup into the egg whites until all of the syrup has gradually been added. DO NOT STOP THE MIXER WHILE ADDING THE HOT SYRUP MIXTURE OR YOU WILL SCRAMBLE YOUR EGG WHITES! Sorry for the drama, but it’s a divinity no-no to stop the mixer & scramble the eggs.

Divinity - Whipping in the Syrup

Once all of the syrup has been added, turn the mixer up to high and let it run for 6-8 minutes, or until the candy mixture begins to get very thick. I just set the timer and went for the full 8 minutes. Better safe than sorry, I always say.

Divinity - Ready to Spread

Turn off the mixer and remove the beater. At this point, the divinity will be thick and glossy. Using a spatula, fold in the pecans and vanilla extract by hand.

Divinity - Stir in Nuts & Vanilla

Pour the candy mixture into the prepared pan(s) and smooth evenly. If yours sets up as quickly as mine did, you may need to lightly spray your spatula or hands with additional cooking spray to keep the candy from sticking to it.

Now the hard part – set your pan(s) on a kitchen towel somewhere out of the way and let it sit for at least 6-8 hours to completely firm up. I put mine on our formal dining room table because we haven’t used it for a meal since 1992.

Once it’s set, cut into 1″ squares with a lightly oiled knife; a serrated bread knife works best. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Divinity - Final Cut

Fun Facts About Divinity:
1. Humidity and Divinity are not friends; they do not play well together.
2. Divinity should never be refrigerated; apparently it doesn’t like cold, either.
3. Most candy, divinity included, should not be made on a rainy day (see #1).
4. Unless they are ‘of a certain age’ your friends may not recognize divinity.
5. Just tell those friends you made ‘marshmallows with nuts’ – it’s simpler.

Recipe Credit: This appeared in Womans Day Magazine when Ronald Reagan was president. I tore it out & saved it when I was but a wee child. {cough}

Now on to the giveaway! One lucky reader will win the following baking booty in honor of Sweets Week:

Sweets Week Giveaway Bar - Vertical

This prize package includes: one copy of the Good Housekeeping Best Loved Desserts cookbook with more than 250 glorious recipes, two adorable ceramic mini-crocks in cherry red, two packages of treat wrappers by Martha Stewart, my favorite bowl-scraping silicone spatula in Valentine’s red, a sweetheart print quilted apron, and a matching kitchen towel in raspberry.

Note: My friend Katie, The Hill Country Cook, introduced me to these sweet little single-serving ceramic crocks. You’re going to love them!

To enter, simply leave a comment at the bottom of this post telling me your favorite sweet treat. This giveaway will run from 8:00am CST on Sunday, February 10th through 12:00 Noon CST on Saturday, February 16, 2013. One winner will be selected at random and notified by e-mail. If the reader selected does not respond within 48 hours, a new winner will be drawn. Participation is limited to US residents only.

THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED. CONGRATULATIONS TO LAUREN GRIER, OUR WINNER! (Lauren, check your e-mail for details.)

sweetsweekbadge

Sweets Week is for sugar lovers, so drop in & check out these Sweetie Pies:

Sunday:
Retro Raspberry Divinity – Jeanne @ Inside NanaBread’s Head (that’s me!)
Red Velvet Vanilla Marble Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Buttercream Frosting – Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic

Monday:
Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Pudding Cookies – Beka @ Kvetchin’ Kitchen
Mini Meringue Strawberry Pie – Katie @ The Hill Country Cook

Tuesday:
Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti – Madeline @ Munching in the Mitten
Samoa Crack Dip – Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama

Wednesday:
Avocado Peppermint Chocolate Mousse – Lauren @ Climbing Grier Mountain
Cherry Garcia Chocolate Bark – Megan @ Wanna Be A Country Cleaver

Thursday:
S’Mores on a Stick – Kat @ Tenaciously Yours
White Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream Frosting – Mads @ La Petite Pancake

Friday:
‘Pucker Up’ Lemon Marshmallows – Allison @ Decadent Philistines Save the World
Mini Chocolate Mousse Pies – Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic

Saturday:
Berry Smoothie Ice Cream Pie & a Giveaway – Anne @ From My Sweet Heart

Divinity - Cake Stand

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It’s 80F so we made ice cream

Chocolate Amaretto Pecan Ice Cream - TitlePic

For the record, 80F in January is a crime against nature. My roses are blooming again. Our yard guy showed up this week to mow. We turned on the AC again. It’s JANUARY, people! This is why we can’t own sweaters. {sigh}

So what do you do when Mother Nature turns the tables on you? Make ice cream (of course). This time we decided to use the chocolate-covered amaretto pecans given to us by our friends Kaki & Donny. She said they were addictive like crack. She was right. These babies are good right outta the bag, but they’re even better swimming in a big vat of dark chocolate ice cream.

I’m going to daydream about that for a minute…

Dark Chocolate Ice Cream with Chocolate-Dipped Amaretto Pecans
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup milk (we use 2%)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate syrup
3/4 cup chocolate-dipped amaretto pecans, chopped

Whisk the eggs until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes); slowly add sugar and whisk for one minute more. Add the cream, milk, salt, vanilla and chocolate syrup and whisk until thoroughly combined. Pour into an electric ice cream freezer and process until done. We use the Cuisinart machine, which takes about 30 minutes. Stir in the chopped pecans, spoon into a a freezer-safe container with a tight fitting lid & place in the deep freeze overnight. (Makes 1 quart)

Chocolate Amaretto Pecan Ice Cream - CloseUp

So while the rest of the nation basks in the glory of fluffy snow or cute sweater weather, we’ll be down here pulling weeds in our flip-flops. And eating ice cream.

PS – If that makes you jealous, call me. House-swap offers will be considered.

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TCP Cooks: Bourbon Pecan Pralines

Bourbon Pecan Pralines - One

The Complete Package, my beloved husband, never makes candy. Ever. Until this December, that is, when he discovered his hidden talent for making Bourbon Pecan Pralines. If you’re going to be a candy savant, this is the recipe to perfect. It’s buttery and caramely and decadent. Oh, and did I mention it has bourbon in it? Lucky for me, he’s made them several times now. Lucky for you, he’s not stingy about sharing recipes.

TCP’s Bourbon Pecan Pralines
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 dash salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups pecan halves, toasted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon bourbon (we’re a Weller Special Reserve family)
butter for baking sheet (or a silpat mat)

Before you begin, prep your baking sheet so it will be ready when the candy is. Either butter the cookie sheet or line it with a silpat mat, if you have one handy.

In a heavy saucepan over low heat, melt the butter then stir in the sugar and brown sugar, salt and heavy cream. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once it comes to a boil, remove the lid and continue to boil until a candy thermometer reads 242F, or almost to firm ball stage.

Stir in the toasted pecans; remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and bourbon. With a sturdy wooden spoon, continue to beat the candy until it goes from glossy to creamy and begins to thicken.

Working quickly, drop tablespoons of the candy mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Allow them to cool completely. Once cooled, you can store them in an airtight container or wrap them individually in plastic wrap.

Bourbon Pecan Pralines - As big as your hand

Note: If you’re like TCP, you’ll drop about 1/2 of a cup at a time and make these babies the size of the palm of your hand. Which is great if you love pralines; not so great if you’re prone to sugar-induced napping. Unless, of course, you’re on vacation for the holidays or you like naps, then it’s a total win/win.

Bourbon Pecan Pralines

Wishing you a Happy Holidays with plenty of pralines,
NanaBread & The Complete Package

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Recipe: Dorie’s Baby Cakes

NanaBread's take on Dorie Greenspan's Baby Cakes


I made my first Dorie Greenspan recipe this week. That’s not a big deal for some people, but it is for me. Fancy French food intimidates me, and I think of Dorie as one of those great French cooks. She writes cookbooks, for God’s sake. Fancy, wonderful, gorgeous cookbooks. Don’t get me wrong – I love eating French food. It’s the making/baking part that freaks me out. Here’s what I learned from Dorie this week: fabulous doesn’t have to mean fussy. This recipe was beyond fabulous, and it could not have been easier. All you need is a handful of ingredients and a few pieces of the right equipment.

On Dorie’s blog this week, she posted a recipe for Almond Baby Cakes. I was intrigued. As I read it, I was amazed that so few ingredients were required. Then I got to the part where she said, “If you play around with the recipe, let me know what you do … please.” Those of you who know me know it takes very little to get me to play with my food. I have a hard enough time sticking to recipes; I’m a recipe fiddler. But when you INVITE me to mess with a recipe, well I just can’t say no. There’s something wrong with my wiring when it comes to stuff like that.

So here’s what I did to Dorie’s Baby Cakes. Instead of almonds, I chose pecans. And since I love coconut, I decided to throw some of that in there, too. Coconut and pecans go together like peas and carrots. Chocolate and peanut butter. Biscuits and gravy. And since the recipe called for a little rum, I grabbed my bottle of Parrot Bay Coconut Rum. Laugh all you want, but God help me if coconut rum & Coke over ice isn’t a little piece of paradise on a hot summer day. So armed with my collection of substitutions and one secret ingredient, here’s how my version of Dorie’s Baby Cakes went down.

The Ingredient Perp Walk - they're all guilty of being delicious

Coconut Pecan Baby Cakes:
1 cup of pecans, halves or pieces
1/2 cup of flaked, sweetened coconut
2/3 cup of granulated sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
5 tablespoons of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons of coconut rum

To start, make sure you place an oven rack in the center rung of your oven and pre-heat it to 350F. Using a standard 12-count muffin pan, butter each cup of the muffin tin generously. Using parchment or waxed paper, cut a small circular piece of paper to fit the bottom of each muffin cup. (Hint: I used a small-mouth canning jar lid ring as my pattern.) Place the paper in the bottom of each cup, then generously butter the paper as well.

In a shallow baking pan, I toasted my pecans and coconut for approximately 10 minutes, or until I could smell their lovely fragrance coming from my oven. Dumping them into the food processor with 2 tablespoons of the sugar, I pulsed the pecans and coconut until they were coarsely ground, but not dust. If you have a few pea-sized chunks in there, don’t sweat it.

Using my KitchenAid stand mixer with the whisk attachment, I combined the rest of the sugar with the eggs and beat on medium-high speed for 5 minutes. Turning the mixer off just long enough to add the pecan/coconut mixture, I then turned it back to medium-high and beat for one additional minute. At this point, you’ll want to stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Turning the mixer back to medium-high, I added the softened butter (you’ll want it to be super soft) one tablespoon at a time. (Note: Dorie’s recipe says to use 5 tablespoons of butter, but I softened an entire stick and lost track, stopping at 6 tablespoons. The extra tablespoon of butter didn’t seem to hurt at all, but next time I will use 5, as directed.) Once the butter is incorporated, turn the mixer to low speed and add the coconut rum, beating just until blended.

The batter will look a little curdled, just as Dorie described, so don’t panic. There’s no flour in this recipe to smooth things out, so just relax and go with it. Why? Because Dorie says so. I used a gravy ladle to spoon equal portions of batter into each of the 12 muffin cups. Each cup should end up about half-full.

Here’s where my secret ingredient came into play. It was this little can of dark chocolate-coated cocoa nibs from my friend Kirsten of Comfortably Domestic. She sent them in a box of goodies earlier this week. I’d never had them before, and my eyes just about bugged out of my head when I tried them. The nibs are crunchy, the chocolate coating is creamy, and together they are simply dreamy. SO when my baby cakes were ready to go into the oven, I sprinkled 10-12 of them on top of my cakes. I left 3 plain, just to try them without the cocoa nibs. BIG mistake. Lesson learned: next time, go all in.

Dark chocolate-coated Cocoa Nibs on top? Yes, please!

Bake the cakes on the center rack for 27-29 minutes, turning the pan halfway through the baking process. In my case, I set the first timer for 14 minutes, then turned the pan and re-set it for another 14 minutes, which turned out perfect. You’ll know they’re done when the edges are crispy brown and a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Remove the pan from the oven and invert immediately. (Hint: I used a flat cookie sheet that was a little larger than my muffin pan. Just turn the cookie sheet upside-down on the muffin pan, then grab both pans with hot pads and flip them both at the same time.)

Baby Cakes so yummy you'll just want to nibble them to death

Gently tap the muffin pan to release the cakes. Once the cakes are out of the muffin tin, give them a few minutes to cool, then remove any parchment paper that may still be stuck to the bottoms, and use a flat spatula to flip them back to their full upright positions. These are best served warm or at room temperature. Even better, serve them with homemade whipped cream spiked with a little vanilla bean paste. That stuff makes everything better, but it is BFFs with whipping cream. Plop a big spoon full on the top and go to town.

Nothing beats homemade whipped cream with vanilla bean paste

If you’re like me, don’t even bother with a plate and fork. Just blob on some whipped cream and eat it with your fingers. The toasted pecans and coconut paired with all that butter and coconut rum makes these dreamy. But the addition of the chocolate-covered cocoa nibs pushed this recipe right over the cliff. I swear I don’t know how these could get any better.

Dorie, you said to let you know if we messed with the recipe, so here’s my contribution. If you try these, I hope you’ll return the favor and let me know. Until then, I can’t thank you enough. These may be Baby Cakes, but they are absolutely HUGE in flavor. And I am totally in love with these little cuties.

Note: this recipe makes 12 baby cakes which can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days, or frozen in the same container for up to 2 months. Here’s the recipe link again in case you missed it: http://doriegreenspan.com/2012/03/im-chugging-away-on-a.html

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Easy Chicken Tortellini Soup

Tortellini Soup - From NanaBread to You, With Love


I just love this recipe. It’s quick, easy, flavorful and satisfying. A friend shared it with me in the early 1990’s when we were working on a church cookbook and I’ve been making it ever since. She made hers with ground beef and beef broth, but I prefer this lighter chicken version.

Ingredients List:

1 rotisserie chicken (plain) from your grocer’s deli
1 32-oz. carton of organic chicken broth
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 15-oz. can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 9-oz. package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 10-oz. package of cheese tortellini (refrigerated or frozen)
1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon of McCormick’s Montreal Steak seasoning
salt & pepper to taste
pinch of dried oregano and basil
pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
parmesan cheese & chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley, for garnish

Place the rotisserie chicken in a large heavy-bottomed pot and pour in the carton of chicken broth. Cover and simmer until the chicken is thoroughly heated and begins to fall apart. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken and allow it to cool until you can chop it without burning yourself. Strain the chicken broth to remove any kibbles and bits and return it to the pan. If needed, add a cup or two of water to create more broth. (May be necessary if your broth simmers too long and/or reduces too quickly.)

Over medium heat, bring the broth back to a simmer. Add the onion, garlic, tomatoes and seasonings. If you like a little spice, throw in that pinch of red pepper flakes. While that simmers, bone the chicken and chop it into bite-size pieces. If you’re feeding a crowd, use all of the chopped chicken. If you’re not, use half the chicken and save the rest for chicken salad tomorrow night. Return the chopped chicken to the pot. Add the spinach and tortellini. Simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes. Taste to see if it needs additional salt and pepper. I also like to taste one of the tortellini to make sure they’re done. If you like your soup on the thicker side, combine 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water and whisk until smooth; stir into the soup.

To serve, spoon into bowls and top with chopped parsley and grated parmesan cheese. A great loaf of crusty bread is the perfect side to this soup.

Substitutions:
1. make with beef broth and ground beef (my friend’s version)
2. use cheese, spinach, or meat tortellini – your choice
3. use mini-ravioli instead of tortellini
4. leave out the tomatoes for a clear broth (great for colds)
5. substitute the pasta of your choosing for the tortellini
6. substitute browned Italian sausage for chicken or beef
7. substitute fresh spinach, kale or other favorite greens

Helpful Hint:
Prepping early can save a ton of time! Simmer your chicken in broth in advance. Strain the broth and store in airtight containers until needed (fridge for 2-3 days/freezer for 2-3 weeks). Bone and chop the chicken and refrigerate or freeze separately from the broth. If you prep these 2 things in advance, you can make this soup in under an hour. Just place the frozen broth in a pan and heat to simmering. Add the chicken and other ingredients, except for the parsley and parmesan. Heat until thoroughly warmed, season to taste, and sprinkle with parsley and parmesan cheese. See? I told you it was easy.

Go make this soup. You know you want to.

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TCP Cooks: Raspberry Ice Cream

TCP's homemade raspberry ice cream

Those of you who visit this blog regularly know that The Complete Package, my beloved husband, loves to make ice cream. He has ever since he brought Christine home. Using a knock-off recipe for Ben & Jerry’s Sweet Cream Base, he has experimented with many flavor combinations. Some were treasures (coffee, maraschino cherry & pecan, peanut butter) and some were just plain good (coconut, peppermint brownie chunk). This weekend, while I was visiting the kids in Austin, TCP tried a new one – raspberry. It’ not just good, it’s fabulous. Like seriously wonderful. Last night, he kicked it up a notch and made me a raspberry milkshake. While I watched The Bachelor. And it was life altering. Here’s how he did it.

The Complete Package’s Raspberry Ice Cream:

For the raspberry puree:
2 cartons of fresh raspberries (6 ozs. each)
3/4 cup sugar
water

Combine raspberries and sugar in a saucepan; add just enough water to cover the berries and whisk with an immersion blender. Bring to a rolling boil so sugar is thoroughly dissolved. Strain to remove the seeds, and set it aside to cool down to room temperature.

For the ice cream custard:
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup milk
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
raspberry puree (from above)

Whisk the eggs in a bowl until fluffy (about 2 minutes). Whisk in the sugar a little at a time until completely blended, then beat one minute more. Add the cream and milk and whisk until thoroughly combined. Add in the salt, vanilla extract, and cooled raspberry puree; whisk until smooth. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze. (Note: you may have to divide the mixture in half and run as two batches depending on the size of your ice cream maker.)

Makes approximately 1 quart. Or 8 bowls. Or 10 milkshakes. Or 1 really colossal ice cream binge (including freezy headache). Consider yourself warned.

PS – Yes, I posted two ice cream stories in a row. For that, I sincerely apologize. To make up for it, I’ll be posting a soup recipe later in the week. It’s delicious and healthy, so thanks in advance for forgiving me.

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Ooey-Gooey Little Chocolate Cakes

Ooey-Gooey Chocolate Cakes - straight from the oven

I have a confession to make. Lately, I’ve been craving chocolate; deep, dark, ooey-gooey chocolate. So naturally, when I found this recipe for Chocolate Dessert Cakes that look almost black from their dark, chocolately goodness… well, let’s just say I got excited. When I saw they were made in individual ramekins with a handful of ingredients I already had in my pantry… well, let’s just say I got more excited. So excited I hit print and ran immediately to my kitchen. R.A.N. You heard me! And trust me, I don’t run for much.

This recipe could not be easier. See for yourself:

6 ounces of butter, melted
1 cup of granulated sugar
1/3 cup of brown sugar
3 eggs
½ teaspoon of almond extract (I added this; it’s optional)
1 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 cup of good-quality cocoa powder
6 squares of dark chocolate (about ¼ ounce each)

Start by pre-heating your oven to 325F.

In a mixing bowl, combine the melted butter, both sugars, eggs and extract; mix until well combined. Sift in the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder and again mix until well combined. The batter will be thick.

Place six 8-oz. ramekins into a baking pan. I used five, because that’s what fit in my 8″ square baking pan and it worked out just fine. I also sprayed them lightly with cooking spray to prevent sticking.

Place one square of chocolate into the bottom of each ramekin. Side Note: I used Special Dark, but you could also use Andes chocolate mints, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, or your personal favorite. Why not, right?

Using an ice cream scoop (or a spoon), divine divide the batter equally among the six ramekins. Because the batter will be thick, you may need to use the back of your scoop or spoon to press it gently into the ramekin.

Place on the center rack of your oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Do not bake longer! The centers are supposed to stay gooey and wonderful.

Remove from the oven and allow them to cool for a few minutes. Serve with your favorite vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream.

To store, put them into empty cans of beets or spinach that have been thoroughly washed and dried, then push them to the back of your fridge. Why? Because sharing is totally overrated.

Recipe Credit: The Instant Cook by Donna Hay and FoodNouveau.com

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Mom’s Raw Peach Pie – Two Ways

Mom's Raw Peach Pie - on brown sugar biscuits or cinnamon sugar pie crust

Summer reminds me of fresh fruit – strawberries, blueberries, watermelon and peaches – and hot summer weather reminds me of my mother’s raw peach pie. It’s what I call a “freestyle” recipe. She made it every summer when peaches came in season. It’s a family favorite and a perfect summer treat because it’s easy, light, refreshing and delicious. Mom always made hers with pie crust, but for the sake of shortcake lovers, I’m giving you TWO versions to choose from. One is made with cinnamon sugar pie crust and one is made with brown sugar biscuits. I have a personal favorite, but I’ll let you decide which one sounds best.

There are only a few basic ingredients:
fresh peaches – peeled and sliced
sugar – to sweeten the peaches
whipped cream – I prefer homemade
your favorite biscuit mix OR pie crust recipe
cinnamon sugar to sprinkle on your biscuits/pie crust
brown sugar (optional, if you’re using the biscuit method)

To prep your raw peach pies, begin by peeling and slicing your peaches. Sample a few slices to determine how sweet your peaches really are. If they need it, add a few tablespoons of sugar, give them a good stir, and place them in the refrigerator to macerate for at least one hour. If you don’t need extra sugar on your peaches, e-mail me immediately and let me know where you’re buying yours. Our peaches smell fabulous, but they’re not very sweet.

The next step is deciding which crust appeals to you – are you a biscuit guy/gal or a pie crust person? If you’re making pie crust, simply use your favorite recipe, roll the dough into a rectangle and place it on a baking sheet. Brush the pie dough with melted butter and sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 425F until the crust turns a beautiful shade of light brown, as if you’re baking a pie. Remove from the oven and allow the pie crust to cool to slightly warm or even room temperature. Can you cheat and use that store-bought brand that comes in a box and rolls out? Absolutely! Who’s going to know except you?

If you are a biscuit lover, grab your favorite biscuit mix. I prefer Pioneer Buttermilk Baking Mix, but if you are a loyal Bisquick user, that works, too. Depending on how many people you’re serving, measure the biscuit mix into a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar for extra flavor (this is dessert, after all), stirring to combine it with the biscuit mix. Then add enough milk or buttermilk to form a nice biscuit dough. Place it on a floured surface and roll it to approximately 3/4″ thick. Cut into round biscuits, placing them on a baking sheet. Brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 425F until they are fluffy and light brown. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool to slightly warm or even room temperature.

While your pie crust or biscuits are baking, beat up a batch of homemade whipping cream. I like to use one pint of really cold heavy cream, 1/4 cup of granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste. You can use vanilla extract. It works just as well, but I love those vanilla bean flavor flecks you get with vanilla bean paste, so if you can find it, use it. You’re worth it.

To assemble, grab a serving bowl or plate and begin with a layer of pie crust or biscuit. If you’re using biscuits, I like to split them in half. If you’re using pie crust, just grab your slab of cinnamon sugar crust and break it into serving dish size pieces. Top your crust of choice with a big spoonful of sweet peaches and a dollop of whipping cream, then create another layer. You can stack them as high as you like; the sky and gravity are the limits. Or you can just pile cut biscuits or pie crust into the bottom of a bowl and top it with peaches if presentation is not high on your priority list. It’s your bowl; do whatcha’ wanna do. Now for the big flourish – top with a generous blob of whipped cream and you’re done. Grab a spoon and a glass of ice tea and enjoy the best summer and my Momma has to offer. Thanks, Mom.

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NanaBread’s Caramel Apple Oatmeal


This morning, as I zombie-stumbled to my coffee pot, I noticed 3 wrinkling apples in my fruit bowl. After I had my coffee firmly planted in my cup which was glued to my hand, I went back to take a closer look. You know that stage when apples have been sitting around a few days too long? When their skins become a little wrinkly and they start to feel slightly rubbery to the touch? Well, my three aging apples were staring me down this morning, daring me to do something. Choices: throw them in the trash or cut them up and see what happens. Since I hate to waste anything, I decided to peel and chop them and turn them into a lovely breakfast of caramel apple oatmeal. Have I ever cooked or eaten caramel apple oatmeal before? Nope. But that didn’t stop me.

To make this, you will need:

2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
½ cup of brown sugar, packed
2 ½ to 3 cups of peeled, diced apples (I used Gala)

1 cup of water
1 cup of milk
¼ teaspoon of salt
1 cup of extra-thick rolled oats

In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar. Cook over medium-low heat until the sugar starts to melt and the mixture starts to bubble a little. Add the apples and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. When the apples turn a nice opaque brown and the caramel sauce is bubbling and starting to thicken, they’re done. Pour the apples into a heat-proof bowl and set aside.

In the same saucepan (don’t rinse it out), heat the water, milk and salt until it starts to bubble gently. Add the oats, give them a good stir, and place a lid on the pan. Cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, or until most of the moisture is absorbed. When it’s done, give it another good stir for good measure. Now grab your apples. Set aside a few spoonfuls for garnish, then pour the apples and caramel syrup into the pan of oatmeal. Stir until well combined. Spoon into serving bowls and top with the reserved apples. This smells SO good!

If you like your oatmeal slightly sweetened, eat it as is. The sweetness of the apples and caramel syrup pair beautifully with creamy oatmeal. If you like oatmeal on the sweet side, add a drizzle of maple syrup. And that’s all there is to creamy caramel goodness in a bowl. What a great way to start your day!

Note: if you are using quick cooking oats, please follow the cooking times listed on your package. Times listed above are for old-fashioned extra-thick rolled oats. My favorite brand is Bob’s Red Mill. If you haven’t tried it yet, you really should. Bob’s Red Mill oats also make the best oatmeal cookies. (See Monday’s post for my Cinnamon Oatmeal cookie recipe.) Warm, chewy cinnamon oatmeal goodness. Judge for yourself!

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