Some thoughts about a birthday…

So here we are. It’s September 1. And my birthday is in 19 days.

I can’t believe it. Of course, I also can’t believe that one year ago, we were in the midst of embarking on our epic trip to Italy.

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sigh…..

Life changing, in so many ways. Today, I was reading a few of my blog posts from last September, and it’s mind boggling to me, really, how much has transpired in just one year. From conversations with my parents two weeks before the trip, the actual trip itself, to meeting J two weeks after the trip, and moving to Austin, Texas, six months after that.

whoa.

In retrospect, at the time, everything just seemed to happen in a natural progression. As it should have. And aside from missing my parents living 4 miles away, and being able to see them whenever I wanted to (read: every day),  I can honestly say I wouldn’t have done anything differently.

However, let’s not overlook one very important fact here:

Alexander is now taller than Sabrina and I.

Proof to follow…..

Banana Blueberry Crumb Muffins

It always makes me so happy when a food related experiment turns out successful, because lately, I’ve had quite a few “mishaps” in the kitchen.

Mishaps sounds so much nicer than incidents or accidents. 

But we really don’t need to bring those out into the open, do we? Well, probably not…….. however, since there are no secrets here, I will tell you that in the last 4 days, I’ve made two dinners that didn’t turn out well at all (i.e. almost inedible), burned out the motor on the drinker mixer, broke one of the good drinking glasses, and cracked a plastic serving bowl in half.

The last mishap (there’s that word again!) resulted in a large quantity of potato chips flying across the kitchen floor, which then resulted in two dogs desperately racing around, trying to eat as many as they could before I was able clean up the mess.

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Now, of course, the pups have taken to staring at the top of the refrigerator where the chips are stored, in the hopes that one of the bags will take an unfortunate tumble to the floor. I’m half expecting to see these two jokesters appropriate a kitchen chair to climb up and help themselves.

I think it might be time to install a camera in the kitchen……

Banana Blueberry Crumb Muffins – adapted from various online sources

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup of ripe, mashed banana
1 cup fresh blueberries

Crumb Topping:

  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1¾ cups flour

In a medium bowl, whisk together sugars, cinnamon, and flour. Pour the butter over top and using a spatula, mix until large crumbs form.

To make the muffins:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 6 jumbo size muffin cups with nonstick spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla and bananas until blended. Add the dry ingredients and blueberries, and gently stir just until blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle on the crumb topping. Bake until a tester inserted in the center of one of the muffins comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes.

Yield: 6 large muffins

Triple Malt Chocolate Cake

It’s been awhile since I made a completely decadent, over the top dessert.

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And I think I succeeded, don’t you? Seriously, this was a great afternoon project, not complicated or difficult to make at all. The hardest part, really, was finding the Whoppers candy.

I’m not even kidding. 

The market down the street didn’t have them, and the gas station mini-mart around the corner didn’t have them. I was getting concerned and ready to scrap the project when I FINALLY discovered them at Target. In the “movie theater candy” aisle. Am I the only one that was not aware of this aisles’ existence? Since when does movie theater candy require its own aisle?

I know, I know, some questions just don’t need to be answered.

On a separate, completely unrelated topic…… we all survived the first week of school. Well, some of us more than others, as Sabrina managed to come down with a cold within the first two days.

That’s talent, kid…..

 Triple Malt Chocolate Cake – adapted from Chow

  • 2 cups malted milk powder
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups whole milk
  • 1 recipe Vanilla Malt Frosting
  • 1 cup malted milk balls, coarsely chopped

Heat the oven to 325°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat 2 (8-inch) cake pans with baking spray (the kind with flour added). Set aside.

Combine the malted milk powder, flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda in a large bowl and whisk to aerate and break up any lumps. Set aside.

Combine the eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla in a separate large bowl and whisk until combined and smooth. Add a third of the flour mixture and whisk until just incorporated. Add half of the milk and whisk until smooth. Continue with the remaining flour mixture and milk, alternating between each and whisking until all of the ingredients are just incorporated and smooth.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the cakes start pulling away from the sides of the pans, about 45 to 50 minutes.

Remove the cakes from the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of each and turn the cakes out onto the rack to cool completely.

To frost, place a cake layer on an 8-inch cardboard round, a tart-pan bottom, or a cake plate. Evenly spread about a third of the frosting over the top of the layer. Stack the second layer and evenly spread another third of the frosting over the top and sides of the whole cake. Place in the refrigerator until the frosting is set up and slightly hard, about 15 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake, ensuring it’s as even as possible. Press the malt balls into the frosting around the sides of the cake and serve.

 

Slow Cooker Tikka Masala

My slow cookers are, by far, the hardest working appliances in my kitchen.

Well, aside from the wine opener, that is …..

Seriously though, my love for these amazing gadgets is well documented and very well known. Sabrina has stopped me on several occasions from purchasing yet another crock pot/slow cooker, because each time we are in a store I always come across a “new and improved” version of a model I already own. These versions usually have a totally cool upgrade, like an LED timer or something nifty like that.

And I get caught up in the moment, because I am so technologically hip, you know….

stop laughing Dad.

Anyway, with school starting this week, and J’s erratic work schedule, I will be relying on these babies more than ever.

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Suffice to say, this version of Tikka Masala will become my go-to recipe from now on. The only change I will make next time will be to add more chicken, as the sauce/meat ratio was a bit off for my liking.

Slow Cooker Tikka Masala – adapted from dinners, dishes and desserts

  • 3 lbs. boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs. fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 (29 oz) can tomato puree
  • 1½ cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tbs. Garam Masala
  • 1 tbs. cumin
  • ½ tbs. paprika
  • ¾ tsp cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Chopped cilantro

In the medium bowl mix together onion, garlic, ginger, tomato puree, yogurt, olive oil, Garam Masala, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, pepper, and cayenne. Once well combined and smooth, add chicken and toss to coat.

Pour into the slow cooker, and add bay leaves. Cover and cook for 6 hours on low, or 3 hours on high.

Garnish with cilantro, and serve with flatbread or rice.

Cheesy Grits

Update: Thanks to my eagle eyed proofreader (aka Dad), I have corrected the grammatical errors and have hopefully fixed the YouTube link…..

I will tell you, right off the bat, that grits are NOT something I was familiar with until I moved to Texas. Previously, whenever I heard the term grits, I would think of the old TV show “Alice”…. and yes I’m dating myself here, as that show aired from 1976 to 1985…

Which was last week, right?

riiiight…..

Anyway, one of the waitresses, Flo – she was the one with the beehive hairdo – her favorite expression, while snapping her chewing gum, was “Kiss my grits!”

And while kissing grits does not sound very appealing, eating them certainly is. I realized, after a few bites, that they are strikingly similar to polenta, just in a much more coarse texture. And made all that much better with the addition of cheese.

Because isn’t everything better with cheese?

Cheesy Grits – adapted very liberally from serious eats

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups water, plus more as necessary
  • 1 cup coarse ground grits
  • 4 tbs. unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Bring milk and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Stir in grits and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until grits are thick and creamy, about 25 minutes. When done, turn off the heat, stir in 4 tablespoons butter and the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. Season with pepper, and thin with water if the grits have become too thick.

 

Heirloom Bakery Coffee Cake

Coffee cake. On a Sunday morning. With coffee, no less…

And to quote Ina Garten, “How bad could that be?” It wasn’t bad at all, because if the truth be told, it was delicious! This is one of those recipes that I will make again and again, as the cake was tender, the splotches of chocolate/cinnamon were heavenly, and I enjoyed it so much that I am seriously looking forward to a piece tomorrow morning, with my coffee (no pun intended), before I take the posse to school. You know Sabrina will be a senior this year, right?

Starting her last year of high school. Last year. Of high school. Did I mention it’s her last year?

Oh lord.…..

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Heirloom Bakery Coffee Cake – adapted from L.A. Times

Topping:

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 tbs. all purpose flour

1 tbs. cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled

In a large bowl, stir all the ingredients together. Set aside.

Cake:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prep a 9-inch square pan by butter and flouring and/or line it with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and baking soda. Set aside.
Using a mixer with paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until fully incorporated. Add the sour cream and vanilla, and blend together. Fold the dry ingredients into the batter.
Spoon half the batter into the 9-inch square baking pan and smooth out with an offset spatula. Top with half the topping. Add the remaining batter and smooth out. Finally, top with the remaining topping.
Bake until golden and a toothpick comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes.

Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

Good morning and Happy Saturday!

Before I head off to the ranch to check progress on the fence installation, I thought I would post my new favorite biscuit recipe.

And yes, they were scooped and dropped, not rolled.

Sounds like a fire drill....

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Buttermilk Drop Biscuits – adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I used White Lily Flour)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk, chilled
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled

Heat oven to 475 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a 2-cup liquid measure, stir together the chilled buttermilk and melted butter until the butter forms small clumps. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula just until the ingredients are incorporated and the mixture slightly pulls away from the edges of the bowl.

Using a greased ¼-cup measure, scoop out mounds of the dough and drop them onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 1 ½ inches apart. Bake the biscuits until the tops are golden brown and crisp, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from the oven, brush with additional melted butter. Serve warm.