September 28, 2010

Cranberry Coffee Cake

This no-fail recipe is one of my breakfast items I bring to get togethers all year round. It's always delicious and everyone loves it. The sweet cake part contrasts well with the tart of the cranberries. Although you can't get cranberries all year, when they are in season, just buy a couple of extra bags. Then you can throw them, in their original bags in the freezer for later. When you want to make this coffee cake, you don't even have to defrost them, which makes them easier to mince. I promise this is what I bring home everytime...

You can use any kind of nuts you like (or omit them altogether). I've used pecans, almonds, walnuts, and even macadamia nuts. You can change the spices or even use dried apricots instead of cranberries so it's really like a basic coffee cake recipe that everyone should have in their arsenal. You can even make it the night before and store it in the fridge and then bake it in the morning. Love those kind of dishes for breakfast!

Cranberry Coffee Cake (adapted from Southern Living)
Serves 12-15

2/3 c soft butter
1 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
2 eggs
2 c flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c buttermilk

Nut Crunch Topping
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 c chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans)
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 3/4 c minced cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat butter until creamy, add sugars and eggs, beat again. In another bowl, mix dry ingredients: flour, cinnamon, soda, powder, and salt. Add dry mixture to butter mix in small batches alternating with buttermilk. Mix well.

Combine the nut crunch toppings: nutmeg, nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon in small bowl.
Grease 9x13 pan. Pour half of batter into bottom of pan. Sprinkle half of nut mixture over batter and half of cranberries over batter. Pour remaining batter over top and smooth out. Top with remaining nut mixture and cranberries. Bake for 35 minutes until toothpick comes out clean when poked in center. Serve warm. Can also be made the night before and stored covered in fridge until ready to bake.

September 21, 2010

Moist Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

At a friend's recent baby shower I made these cupcakes. My friend requested chocolate or red velvet cupcakes. We all know the best part of the red velvet cake is the cream cheese icing, so I decided to combine chocolate and cream cheese. The buttermilk in these cupcakes makes a moist and a little tangy foil to the sweet sugar/ chocolate goodness.

The day after the baby shower, I got this wonderful package in the mail from Fat Toad Farm. It contained two jars of their caramel sauce made from goat's milk. The sauces are nothing like a caramel sauce from the store, much more viscous and a greater depth of flavor. The coffee caramel sauce is over the top delicious! I poured a little on the top of a leftover cupcake - seriously decadent! I only wish I'd gotten the caramel BEFORE the baby shower.

Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes
Makes 12

3/4 c flour (spooned and leveled)
3/4 c sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tbsp melted unsalted butter
6 tbsp buttermilk
1 egg
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard 12-cup muffin tin (or two 6-cup muffin tins) with paper or silicone liners. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. (What is the right way to measure flour? Take a spoon and spoon the flour into your measuring cup. When you get a big mound of flour in your cup, level it off with a knife so the top is flat and measures the correct amount. This process ensures you have air mixed in with your flour and you aren't using too much flour in a recipe, which is especially important in baking.)

With an electric mixer, combine cocoa and 3 tablespoons hot water until a thick paste forms (this process intensifies the chocolate flavor). Add butter, buttermilk, egg, and egg white; beat until combined. Whisk in flour mixture until smooth. Scoop batter into muffin pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 pkg cream cheese, 8 oz (I use light because it's easier to beat)
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla

Beat the cream cheese until fluffy and then mix in the powdered sugar and vanilla, starting slowly so you don't end up with a white dusted kitchen. You can also make this with 4 oz of cream cheese and 4 oz of butter, but I prefer the creamier all cheese version. Frost the cooled cupcakes.


September 15, 2010

Creamy Peach Ice Cream

I couldn't resist.  I took the last of those amazing juicy peaches and made peach ice cream. What could be more southern, more Georgian? Creamy and delicious it was a big hit with everyone including our dinner guests!

Peach Ice Cream (adapted from
Makes about 2 qt

2 pounds ripe peaches
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 c plus 2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 c heavy cream
1 3/4 c whole milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract (or just more vanilla)

Peel peaches using method described here.
Whisk together cornstarch, and sugar in a heavy medium saucepan. Add cream and milk and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Add a little of this mixture to the egg yolks in a slow stream, whisking constantly, to temper (which means you don't want to make scrambled eggs, so be careful) then pour the eggs into saucepan.

Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, just until custard coats back of spoon and registers 170°F on an instant-read thermometer, 1 to 2 minutes (mixture will be thick). Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl (or not, I don't) and stir in extracts. Chill custard with plastic wrap pressed over the top of it so it doesn't form a "skin" 2-4 hours.

Mix peaches in with cold custard and freeze in ice cream maker as directed. Don't serve right away unless you don't mind REALLY soft ice cream.  I find it's better to put the ice cream in tupperware and put it in the freezer overnight (or at least a couple of hours) so it hardens.

September 11, 2010

Apples and Peaches and Canning Jars...Oh My!

A few weekends ago when the husband and I took our babymoon, we stopped in Ellijay to pick up some apples. It also happened that the orchard we stopped in had peaches.  They were delicious! So sweet and juicy and we bought a 1/2 bushel. I knew we eat a bunch just with cereal or yogurt or lunches. But I had a plan for the rest of them. We also bought a 1/2 bushel of apples. They were early season apples and crisp and tart. Perfect for making applesauce. I canned about 6 quarts of applesauce which the big kids will have to share with the new baby. I also froze sliced apples for cobbler, pie, bread and muffins this winter. Lastly I dried some apple slices for eating and putting in oatmeal. That pretty much took care of the apples, in fact we didn't have any left to eat! I think we'll have to go back in a couple of weeks and take the kids apple picking.
For the peaches, I wanted to can some of them straight out with a sugar syrup. I also find during the winter we (mostly me) crave fruit and I end up buying canned. I wanted a substitute for canned peaches this year and canning my own seemed easy enough, which it was.
To start off with, I peeled all the peaches. No, this does not involve a potato peeler (thank goodness). You simply put the fruit into a pot of hot boiling water for about 30 seconds and then take the fruit out with a slotted spoon and put them into ice water. After they cool off a little, you can slip the skin off with your fingers. You are left with slippery round balls of sweet goodness.
Some of these I cut into slices and added hot sugar water to create my homemade canned peaches. I then processed the jars in my pressure canner and they were done.

The rest of the peaches got smashed up with a potato masher and made into two different kinds of jam. One is a rosemary peach jam and the other is a peach lime jam. Both turned out SERIOUSLY delicious. We've had them on english muffins and pb&j, but I imagine they would both work really well on a pork tenderloin or pork chops. Here are the recipes for you to try yourself. And if canning intimidates you, I promise it's not hard and it's amazingly good. So much better than the store-bought.
Peach Rosemary Jam (adapted from Martha Stewart)
Makes about 1 quart
3 pounds yellow peaches, peeled
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
4 3/4 cups sugar
4 large sprigs fresh rosemary

Halve and pit peaches, then cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. Mash with sugar and lemon juice in a large pot. Add rosemary sprigs and bring mixture to a boil over med -high heat. Cook for about 12 minutes. Skim foam from surface. Discard rosemary sprigs.

Fill 4 ounce canning jars that have just come out of the dishwasher and seal. Process in hot water bath for 10 minutes. Cool jars on towel before removing rings and storing in pantry. I label the jars right on the lids since you can't reuse the canning lids.

Note: this recipe does not use pectin, so it may be a little runnier than you are used to.

Peach Lime Jam (adapted from Sure Jell recipe)

4 c prepared fruit (about 3 lb. fully ripe peaches)
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp grated lime rind
1 tsp fruit fresh (optional)
1 box sure jell fruit pectin
5 1/2 c sugar

Bring water canner to a simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in dishwasher. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat (I never do this step). Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.

Peel and pit peaches. Finely chop fruit. Measure exactly 4 cups prepared fruit into 6- or 8-quart saucepot. Add lime juice, grated rind, and fruit protector. Stir until well blended. Stir in pectin. Bring to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly.

Stir in sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with 2-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger.

PS. I love this book for all the recipes and details on how to can. Novice or expert alike will get something out of it.

September 8, 2010

Our Babymoon Getaway

Just recently my husband and I decided to plan a weekend getaway. We usually take a "babymoon" near the end of my pregnancy and leave the kids with my wonderful parents. We decided a weekend close by was in the budget and the agenda would be to "do nothing". Now this sorta goes against the grain for us movers and shakers, but these days I'm feeling like a little sitting around is just what I need. I searched around the internet and found the Overlook Inn on top of Fort Mountain in the North Georgia Mountains. We have been to Fort Mountain State Park way back when we were dating and liked the area. I figured it might be a little cooler and boy was I right. It was cool enough to enjoy being outside in the evening.

The Overlook is a bed and breakfast that also rents out cabins. We picked the BandB so I wouldn't have to cook or clean. While we were there, we checked out the cabins, they are down a really long gravel road, so pretty remote and very cute inside. The Inn was surprisingly right off the main road, but the traffic died down at night so it didn't bother us. Our room was the Moon Eye and it was quaint, comfortable and very clean. The bed was divine (and I'm like the princess and the pea when it comes to beds and sheets)! There were plenty of pillows to create my "pregnancy nest". The bathroom had wonderful soft towels and organic toiletries that smelled great. The BEST part of the room however, was the screened in private porch with rocking chairs and a hot tub! This is one of the main reasons I chose the Inn. The tub was way too hot for me to go in when it's set on their normal temp, but Neil, one of the staff members,  was so kind and helped us change the temperature so we could enjoy it for our weekend. It was heavenly to soak weightless in the tub with the katydids chirping around us in the evening.

One of the other main reasons we picked the Inn was due to their write up in a 2008 Southern Living issue which they advertised on their website. I was also excited about the descriptions of the elegant, gourmet 3-course southern breakfast, afternoon tea service, wine and cheese hour and candlelight dessert. I know - it's all about the food for me!! I have to say this is one area where I was disappointed. The breakfast the first morning was a muffin and granola for the first course, a broiled half peach for the second course, and a dry frittata, overcooked frozen sausage patty and huge croissant for the third course. The next morning was worse with the same first course, broiled grapefruit for the second, and pancakes that obviously had too much baking powder in them (only one guest actually ate them). Good ideas that fell flat when executed. Why not make use of the local fresh peaches and showcase their freshness? Why serve so many breads when one would do and spend the money on a little garnish for the plates like uh.... jam and butter. None was served with the croissant. Why not offerr creamy, softly scrambled eggs and dazzle us with a homemade coffee cake? Unfortunately the afternoon tea continued the pattern of lack of attention to detail.
There was a lovely tea pot set up with hot water and coffee for the non tea drinkers. Sadly the only kind of tea bags they offered was green tea - no black, no herbal. The only time I like hot green tea is when I'm eating sushi. So I settled for the bottled water they provided and partook of the only snack served at this "tea"...cookies. I figured the wine and cheese would be yummy. Wonderful Heather, who was very kind and helpful like the rest of the staff, offered to break out the sparkling cider in my current preggo condition.  I told her it wasn't necessary, but it was sure nice that she offered.  (As a side note: she's a talented writer with a gift for wit and you can pick up her books at the property's gift shop.) The wine and cheese turned out to be precut chunks of cheddar, colby jack and the like.  Nothing like what I expected. Even a wheel of brie would have been better than the Kraft package products that were used.
That evening there was an optional Fondue Night package that we did not try, so it might have been delicious. But I had splurged and gone to Whole Foods where I picked up some artisanal cheeses, sausage, crackers, huge greek olives, a loaf of fresh bread, gourmet chocolate and grapes. It was the perfect dinner as we sat on our porch and enjoyed our meal. A relaxing and quiet way to end our weekend together. The Inn was great for solitude and romance.

All and all we had a special time together which is exactly what we wanted. We got to talk and laugh and remember why we like each other so much.  Sometimes it's easy to remember you love each other, but the liking part is a little harder in the chaos of everyday living. To this day, I'm am so grateful to have found my husband and thankful that he chose me. He is my foundation and support and I dearly love him.


September 2, 2010

Sam's Club Winner

hlavine@w*********.com won the Sam's Club gift certificate. Thank you to all who entered! It's so much fun giving things away I really hope to do it more often.



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