22 September 2010

Chocolate Chess PIe

This recipe for chocolate chess pie is one of the first pies I learned to make.  I used to make it every time we had spaghetti when Bubba and I were first married and living in Germany.  I made it many, many times and then...I stopped making it for years. I forgot about it.  A couple of weeks ago, I was going through my old recipe books that are, sadly, used more for decoration on my counter rather than a source for recipe ideas.  Now, I just go to the internet and look up a recipe or stumble through food sites gathering ideas.  So, my poor collection of Southern cookbooks sit gathering dust. (Or trying, at least. I dust them often because they are in the kitchen.)  I was so excited to refind this recipe! I have little notes written down in the cookbook, "does NOT make deep dish," and "DOUBLE." I doubled the recipe, per instruction, and made a deep dish chocolate chess pie. 

You will need:

2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup butter
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 deep dish unbaked pie crust*

*I only use homemade pie crusts now. I used to buy those refrigerated ones, but then starting making my own (as I always did years ago before the refrigerated ones were available) and wow.  Just wow. The difference!! I use this recipe.  It is absolute perfection. It also gives me an excuse to get the vodka out of the freezer.)

Preheat your oven to 325°

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and chocolate.  (Make sure the butter is warmed first or is room temperature when you add it or the chocolate will seize.) 

While it cools, beat the eggs.

Then add the sugar.

Slowly pour in the cooled chocolate and butter mix and then add vanilla.

Pour it all into your unbaked pie crust and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the center is set.  You don't need to place this pie on a cookie sheet because it will not spill over.  (Also, placing it directly onto the oven rack will allow the bottom crust to cook thoroughly.)

It makes a nice, crackly crust on top and leaves the middle gooey and rich.  And soooooooo delicious.

You could add fresh whipped cream (not Chemical Whip) or ice cream, but why paint the peacock?  This pie is fabulous all by its lonesome.


Time Management

  Well, it turns out going back to school after 14 years of being a stay-at-home mom is tougher than I expected.  I am having some time management issues, and am slowly working through them.  My whole schedule had to be thrown out the window and reworked, but after 14 years, I am finding it a little hard to adapt to the new one.  There have been tears.  And missed appointments. And even one, "why didn't the Goose come home on the bus?!"  Oh, right, she told me about that French Club meeting last week and I need to go pick her up--right now.  I am finding meal preparation a bit harder, too.  Thursday is particularly difficult because I am not home for dinner and have to plan something and write it down for the girls to cook.  They have been a huge success at it and are even enjoying it.  It's a little nerve-wracking for me since they have to start dinner before Bubba gets home and no one is here to help them if they need it, but we've talked about safety and, so far, I haven't had them make anything in the oven that Bubba isn't home to pull out.
  There have been many, many beneath-the-desk, hide-from-the-teacher texts back and forth with the girls. I need to know when they get off the bus and when they walk in the door.  And I need to know that the doors are locked. And that the dog has been let outside. And that dinner prep is underway. And when Bubba gets home so I can stop worrying.  Sweetest man on Earth, truly.  The first two weeks he came home from work early, so that he would be here when the girls got home and I would not freak out.  Like I did the first week when I was crying so hard I didn't know if I could drive to my class.  Not home when the babies get home?  Lots and lots and lots of guilt.  (Did I mention that three mornings a week I have to leave before Tink does? GUILT!)
  On top of all of us trying to get used to my new schedule, we have had a very trying month.  Too many things to detail completely, but Bear got sick and we were sure we were going to have to put him down (he's fine now), we had a health worry with Tink (she's fine now, too), several minor issues that feel HUGE when you are already feeling overwhelmed, and worst of all, our beloved Smores died.  She had been sick for a while, and finally passed away yesterday.  We think she was egg bound.  We did everything we possibly could for her and even gave her a round of antibiotics (I know, not organic, but her life was on the line).  We kept her alive for as long as possible, without suffering, but she finally gave out.  We will miss her so much.
  As far as culinary school goes, my classes are so much fun.  SO MUCH FUN! I absolutely adore the chefs I am working with and the classes fly by because they are so great.  Getting through everything else is easier when I think about the end goal.  I am going to be a chef!  And...I am finding myself getting very interested in food science.  Very interested!  I could even see myself being a food scientist. 
  So, while September has been an extremely trying month for our family, we are looking forward to the coming holiday seasons.  Halloween is my absolute, bar-none, favorite time of the year.  Until it's over, and then Thanksgiving is my favorite...and then xmas.  The baking!!!!  I will try to post at least once a week, but bear with me.  Time Management is not my friend...yet. 

31 August 2010

WINNER of My First Giveaway!!

We have a winner!  I used random.org to generate the winning number, 10. 

"Susan said... How about trying some stuffed zucchini blossoms- i always see those on the 'fancy' food shows, they look interesting- it would be fun to try them out."

Congratulations, Susan!  I have always wanted to try stuffed zucchini blossoms!  You will be hearing from CSN stores soon about your gift card! (They will email you.)

I want to try EVERYTHING you all suggested!!  Ratatouille, risotto, crab cakes, creme brulee, crab wellington, homemade pasta, pastry with fruit, Chipotle pork burgers, Cornish game hens,  grilled chicken kebabs, Cajun Remoulade, coq au vin, osso bucco, or mini turkey burgers...my mouth is watering.  I asked the Goose what she would like me to make and she said, "any of those fancy mac and cheese suggestions."  :)  Of course.  She is taking French this year, so I love the idea of making Macaronis et Fromage. 

Thank you all so much for making my first giveaway such a big success! And thank you to CSN stores for their generous offer of a $50 gift card!!

30 August 2010

Back To School

The monkeys went back to school last week and I went back today.  It has been a busy time for us!  I thought I would post a few of my recipes that we use during the school week and a few ideas for store-bought items to pack in lunches.

First, breakfast.  My girls will eat pancakes 4-5 days a week if I let them, but I could not in good conscience feed them pre-packed or white flour mix pancakes.  So, I made up a whole wheat mix that I keep in a ziploc bag in my freezer.  One cup of mix, one egg, and 3/4 cup of milk and you have 6-8 good-sized pancakes. I use white whole wheat flour, which is a bit smoother than whole wheat, but still has all the nutritional benefits of the wheat. (You can also use this mix for waffles. Use all the same amounts, but add 2T of oil.)

Sometimes I am tired of making pancakes or want to change it up a bit for them.  I toast a whole wheat English muffin and add cheese and an egg to it.  Sometimes the girls like their eggs fried (in cooking spray) and sometimes they like them scrambled.  Either way you have a super nutritious Egg McMuffin knock-off. They usually can't finish the whole thing.  It is very filling!!

And don't forget my Anything Muffins! It is the perfect muffin base.  You can add anything, hence the name. :)  Seriously, though--anything you want. From blueberries to chocolate chips, bananas to bacon and cheddar! They also freeze really well, so you could make them over the weekend and pop them in the freezer.  They will be thawed by the time you get to work or leave out a couple overnight (wrapped up tight) and pop the thawed muffins in the microwave for 8 seconds the next morning.  (When I make them during the school week I use at least half white whole wheat.)  Tink's favorite muffin, though, is my Raisin Bran Muffin.

Last year, I could not get enough packed in their lunches--they kept asking for more! This year, they want a sandwich, yogurt or sugar-free pudding, and some Fig Newtons. I think it's the heat that has sapped their appetites.  Also, it's just week 2. By next week they will want totally new things.  Here are some examples of things I pack for them:

pudding and a small cheese round  or stick


The girls LOVE red, seedless grapes.  We buy them even when they are out of season.

Cheerios or Cheez-its snack mixes

dark chocolate Chex Mix

my homemade granola bars

(those are sooooo good.  Make them today!!)

my homemade apple sauce (or, in a pinch, all natural applesauce with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar)

Chickens in the Road posted a homemade Fig Newtons recipe that I am dying to try!! Especially since my girls are on a Fig Newtons kick.

When my monkeys get home from school I usually pull a cookie out of the freezer or they just have a glass of juice.  They aren't usually very hungry and we eat at 4:30, so they don't have to wait long for dinner.  Any of these lunch ideas would be perfect for after-school snacks, though.

Have a successful, wonderful school year everyone!

(The winner of my first giveaway will be posted tomorrow!)

19 August 2010

Coca-Cola Brownies

Tink found a recipe for Coca-Cola Brownies online and asked me if she could make them.  I've been trying to encourage both of my girls to get more active in the kitchen.  Once I start culinary school I won't be home for dinner on Thursdays and the girls will be in charge of making something.  They are excited and it has inspired them to start trying out more recipes. Tink made my banana bread last week and Goose made my breadsticks.  They set up their laptops in the kitchen and just followed along.  So cute. Anyway, this recipe for Coke brownies was easy and fun.  Tink really enjoyed herself and we both enjoyed finishing off the Coke (a rare treat in this house).  These brownies are much, much, much better the next day.  They are great the first day, but something happens when they sit for 24 hours--they plump up and the flavor deepens.  So, make them the day before you want them!

You will need:

1 box fudge brownie mix (1lb. 2.3oz)
2T oil
1 egg
1/2 cup Coca-Cola
1/2 cup buttermilk
For the frosting:

1/2 cup butter (Smart Balance)
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup Coke
4 cups powdered sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease just the bottom of a 9x13 pan.

Empty the brownie mix into a large bowl and add the buttermilk.

Then the Coke...

the oil...

and the egg.

Mix thoroughly and then pour into your greased pan.

Bake for around 25 minutes and then let them cool for at least an hour, 3 is better.  You just want to make sure that they are completely cool before you frost them.

After they are cool you can make the frosting.  Melt the butter and then add the cocoa and Coke.

Whisk for 2 minutes on medium speed.

It looks awesome, but don't give in to temptation like Tink and try it. No sugar yet! :)

Now add the powdered sugar, whisking after every cup until combined.

(This recipe makes quite a bit of frosting.  You could halve the recipe and still have plenty to cover the brownies.  Using the full recipe makes for a thick topping.  Absolutely delicious, but maybe a bit excessive.)

Spread over your cooled brownies.

Now, as Tink likes to say, it's time to feast!

These brownies are moist, fudgy, and decadent.  And soooo much better the next day!  I don't know why it happens, but the Coke and even the chocolate flavor is stronger the next day.

You won't be disappointed if you have to eat them the first day. Believe me, I understand! :) :)  But if you can wait...wow.


Tink's Coca-Cola Brownies

1 box fudge brownie mix (1lb. 2.3oz)
2T oil
1 egg
1/2 cup Coca-Cola 
1/2 cup buttermilk
For the frosting:
1/2 cup butter (Smart Balance)
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup Coke
4 cups powdered sugar

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees 
and grease just the bottom of a 9x13 pan.

2. Empty the brownie mix into a large bowl
and add the buttermilk.

3. Then add the Coke, the oil,
and the egg.

4. Mix thoroughly and then pour into your greased pan.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
6. Cool completely.

7. For the frosting:
melt the butter and then add the cocoa and Coke.
8. Add the powdered sugar, whisking after every cup until combined.
9. Spread over the cooled brownies and feast!

Don't forget to leave a comment on my first giveaway and enter to win a $50 gift card to any CSN store!  The contest ends at 5pm on the 30th of August!

13 August 2010

My First Giveaway

I have exciting news! CSN Stores contacted me and asked if I would like to give away a $50 gift certificate to one of their stores to one of my readers.  Um...YES! They have over 200 stores in which they sell everything from dining room sets to bakeware, grills, swing sets, rugs, bedding, clocks, and...wait for it...Le Creuset! How cool is that?  It will be a breeze to spend $50 in one of their stores.  When they first contacted me I spent the next two hours pouring over all their items and I didn't even make a dent in all they offer! CSN Stores contacted me at the perfect time, too, because I have other news.  Exciting news!

If you follow my blog you have noticed by now that I make mom food.  Great mom food, but comforting, easy, usually healthy mom food.  And that's super, but I would love to cook like they do on Top Chef.  So, starting August 30th I am going to culinary school! I am going to be a chef!! Bubba, Goose, and Tink are super excited for me, although Goose is worried that I will be making "fancy food" that she doesn't care for. Not to worry, Goose, I will still make mom food.  :)  There are a lot of people in my life who have encouraged me to go to culinary school.  My buddies PMP (and her mom), Ms. K, and Ms. F are just a few of my strongest supporters and I thank them from the bottom of my heart!!  Bubba's family are also really supportive and excited to be my guinea pigs when I start making "fancy food." 

To enter the contest, just leave a comment on this post answering this question:

What is the first "fancy food" dish I should make for my picky Goose?

The contest ends at 5pm a week from Monday on the 30th of August (my first day of culinary school).  Winner will be chosen at random. (CSN Stores only ships to the US and Canada, so the winner will need to have a stateside or Canadian shipping address.) 

I cannot wait to read all of your suggestions!!  Make sure to leave an email address because the gift certificate will be emailed to you.  Now head on over to CSN stores and start figuring out how you are going to spend your $50! :)

Chef Sunshine Mom--I like the sound of it!

11 August 2010

Chocolate Waffles

When I asked Tink what she would like for birthday breakfast she said, "chocolate waffles!"  I thought it an interesting request since I had never made them before.  And where do you turn when you have never made a dish before and it has to turn out perfectly because it is for a special occasion?  Yep, Alton Brown.  His recipe for chocolate waffles is oh-so-perfect!! They come out with a slightly crisp outside and soft, tender insides. The chocolate flavor is perfect, too.  There is very little sugar in this recipe, so they are not sweet.  We all really, really liked that.  The hint of sweetness came from the chocolate and then, of course, the syrup. If the waffles had been sweet the syrup would have been overkill. Tink ate four and asked for them again the next morning...and the next morning....  :)

You will need:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3T sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (Alton added a full tsp)
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 whole eggs, beaten
1/4 cup oil (Alton used butter, same quantity)
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups buttermilk (don't substitute!!!!)
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
waffle iron

To me, a great waffle recipe has two things: buttermilk and oil.  I would not even consider making waffles without those two ingredients.  I don't, however, think a great waffle recipe needs yeast or beaten egg whites. 

Preheat your waffle iron. I turn on mine before I even start making the waffles, so that it is piping hot and ready to go after the waffle batter rests.

Such an easy recipe--in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. 

In another bowl, beat the eggs together with the oil and vanilla and then add the buttermilk.

Make a well in the center of the dry mix and add the wet.

Stir together...

and then add the chocolate chips.  That's it!  I switch to a spatula to do the stirring when I add the chips.

Let the batter rest for five minutes.  That will give the baking powder time to do its stuff.

I use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to add the batter to the waffler maker.  I have a nonstick, so I don't really need to grease it, but I always give it a little pan spray before the first waffles go on.  After that I don't bother.

Alton says to leave them for five minutes.  I have a temperature indicator on the top of my waffle maker.  When it turns green I open it up.  The waffles are always perfectly cooked.  It takes about five minutes. :) :)

Now for the good part!  Butter...

and syrup!

I got 16 waffles total.  Four for each person.  They are very filling, but it is so hard to stop eating when they taste this awesome!  Full just means we could stop if we wanted to.  Right??

The chocolate chips are something else in these waffles.  So gooey and delicious.  I usually use mini chocolate chips in pancakes or waffles, but with this recipe I used the big guys and I am so glad I did.  I definitely would not recommend using a chip sweeter than semi-sweet.  No milk chocolate.  I loved, loved, loved that these waffles were not sweet, but still full of chocolate flavor!  They definitely tasted like waffles and not a dessert.  Way to go, Alton! Another home run!!

Make them immediately!  For breakfast or dinner!!   Enjoy!

Sunshine Mom's Chocolate Waffles
adapted from Alton Brown

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3T sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (Alton added a full tsp)
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 whole eggs, beaten
1/4 cup oil (Alton used butter, same quantity)
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups buttermilk (don't substitute!!!!)
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
waffle iron

1. Preheat your waffle iron. I turn on mine before I even start making the waffles, 
so that it is piping hot and ready to go after the waffle batter rests.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, 
cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.  

3. In another bowl, beat the eggs together 
with the oil and vanilla and then add the buttermilk.

4. Make a well in the center of the dry mix and add the wet.
5.Let the batter rest for five minutes. 

6. I use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to add the batter to the waffler maker.

7. Alton says to leave them for five minutes.

8. Now add butter, syrup, jam, even peanut butter!

04 August 2010

Elvis' Fried Banana Sandwich

One of Tink's many, many birthday food requests was a fried banana sandwich.  She calls them Elvis sandwiches and she absolutely loves them.  We all do!  Of course, I add my own little touches and healthy it up as much as possible. :) These sandwiches are also a great alternative to banana bread when I need to use up the overripe bananas we seem to constantly have.  In this heat, bananas last two days at most on our counter.  I usually stick them in the fridge, which keeps them from ripening for almost two weeks, but the kids still won't eat them because the skins turn black.  I have come to enjoy my bananas cold better than room temperature!

You will need (for one sandwich):

1 overripe banana
peanut butter
2 slices of whole wheat bread
Smart Balance spread (or butter)
cinnamon sugar
frying pan

Preheat your frying pan to medium heat.  Grease with pan spray or butter.

Spread peanut butter onto both slices of bread.  I like Smart Balance's natural peanut butter.

Drizzle honey on one side of peanut butter laced bread.  Slice the banana and place the slices on the other peanut butter slathered bread.

Put the two slices together, banana and honey meeting in the middle.  Spread the Smart Balance spread onto the outside of the sandwich.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Heat in the frying pan until a beautiful golden brown.

Tink likes to have her sandwich cut in half.  (It's all I can do to not write "sanch" because that's what the girls have always called sandwiches. Sanches! Goose started it.  Her favorite lunch as a toddler was a "cheesh sanch.")

So delicious!!  My mouth is watering and I glanced over at the bananas on the counter.  The stinkin' things are under ripe for once.  Of course!  :)

We've been on a cold sanch kick this week for dinner because the heat index has been in the 100's.  The weatherman said that this is the hottest weather in recorded history here in Florida.  I didn't even want to turn on the burner to boil the eggs for egg salad sanches last night!  But I would turn on the burner for these fried banana sanches!!  I think I've decided on tomorrow night's dinner!

All great flavors!  Bananas, peanut butter, honey, cinnamon.  Absolutely wonderful!  Add the touch of sugar and the nutty whole wheat and you come pretty close to the perfect sanch.  At least according to Elvis and Tink!