Saturday, November 26, 2011

Aunt Glynn's Chewy Cake

This is so easy to put together it's dangerous. You literally dump everything into a bowl, stir it up and pour it into a baking pan. I added this at the last minute to our Thanksgiving line up and I'm SO glad I did. It's what I ended up picking on the most while watching the Texas/A&M game (what? did someone just say poor Aggies?) ;)

It should be noted that this really isn't cake-like at all but more like a blondie (brownie) with extra chew from the shredded coconut. The misnomer didn't bother me though. I mean would you really care if Brad Pitt was named Clarence or even Dweebie? And besides whatever the hell it's called - it's delicious. Plain by itself... Dunked into brandy-spiked egg nog... Over vanilla ice cream... Eaten at 1 in the morning after too many Gueros margaritas... Or after church service. Yes church service is what I meant to say.

Anyway - Happy Holidays Y'all! And God Love Ya Aunt Glynn - whoever you are.

Aunt Glynn's Chewy Cake
Recipe courtesy Paula Deen, mildly adapted by yours truly;)
* Easy peasy to throw together at the last minute!
Yield: 16 servings

1 (1-pound) package light brown sugar
2 cups self-rising flour
1 stick butter, melted and slightly cooled, plus more for greasing (or nonstick spray)
3 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 (7 oz) package chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (or a lil more)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 7-1/2 by 10-1/2 inch baking pan or glass dish with either butter or cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix together the brown sugar, flour, and butter. Add eggs and vanilla and stir well. Fold in coconut, pecans, chocolate chips and salt until well combined. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted through the middle comes out clean. Cool the cake completely in the pan before cutting it into squares.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pumpkin Pie with Vanilla and Orange Zest. Happy Thanksgiving Y'all.

It took me a few years to appreciate the tradition of the Thanksgiving feast. I tried to make it fancy one year, then tried to skip the turkey tradition altogether, and once even to streamline it, doing away with the all-you-can-eat-buffet that we always seem to end up with. But finally I realized that's exactly the point.

So yet again I'm gearing up with the traditional line up. Sausage cornbread stuffing, sweet potato souffle, turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green beans, and the obligatory pumpkin pie (though I did shake it up a little this year adding in some orange zest and vanilla bean - deeelish!)

Happy Thanksgiving y'all and enjoy it no matter what you eat or how you celebrate!

Pumpkin Pie with Vanilla and Orange Zest

1 unbaked store bought refrigerated pie crust (deep dish)
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla bean, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
grating of fresh nutmeg
zest of 1/2 large orange or a whole smaller one
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Whipped cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 425.

In a large bowl, mix together the puree, eggs, sugar, vanilla, spices, and zest until well blended. Gradually stir in the evaporated milk and salt then pour into your prepared unbaked crust.

Bake for 20 minutes at 425, then lower the heat to 375 and bake another 40 minutes or until a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean. You might also need to 'tent' the edges of the crust with aluminum foil if they get to dark while baking.

Let cool and serve with whipped cream if desired. Keep chilled.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Making dinner the other night I was flipping through the channels when I saw Wheel of Fortune hosting from...the North Pole. I had to check my wine for poison and then my calendar. It was a full week and a half before Thanksgiving let alone Christmas. What happened to decorating with pumpkins and fall leaves or even a ceramic turkey?

But Vanna and Pat weren't the only ones. It seemed the Christmas (PC term - Festivas?) fever had already spread beyond the point of me worrying about it. The grocery store was all decked in holly with Karen Carpenter blasting from the speakers, the ghost decorators had already begun bedazzling the Cedar trees on 360 in red and gold, and truth be told - I was glad for it. It just goes by too fast y'all. (Though I do feel bad for Thanksgiving - will it soon be renamed Christmas, Part 1?)

Anyways sorry to jump on the 'skipping ahead to Christmas' bandwagon but my Thanksgiving recipes are all going to be pretty standard this year aside from doing the turkey on the Big Green Egg which I'll share with you later so I thought I'd post The Homesick Texan's Strawberry Guajillo Jam. This jam would make a fantastic gift or stocking stuffer. And if you're leery of making homemade jam like I was - don't be. Easy as pie y'all. Just make sure you put hot jam in a hot, just sterilized jar (you can do it in the dishwasher) and that's all there is to it.

This jam is lovely - the only kind Kris will eat now - not spicy but with just enough kick to be interesting. Come to think of it - it'd be fantastic on a leftover turkey sandwich instead of the usual cranberry sauce!

Strawberry Guajillo Jam, from The Homesick Texan
Yields 2 pints.
* Very easy but allow for 4 hours of letting the strawberries to sit before making.

2 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 cups granulated sugar
1 dried guajillo chile, stem and seeds removed OR 1/4 teaspoon dried guajillo powder
1/2 cup lime juice
pinch kosher salt

2 pint-size jars or 4 half-pint size jars with lids and bands

Toss the strawberries in a pot with the sugar and let stand for 4 hours until soft and juicy.

Place a plate in the freezer. Dice the dried guajillo and add it to the strawberry pot (or powder) along with the lime juice, salt and 1/4 cup of water. Bring the pot to a boil and then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, sterilize the jars and lids in either a pot of boiling water or dishwasher (just don't do this too early or the jars will become too cool - you want them still hot when you put the jam into them.)

After 30 minutes, take the plate out of the freezer and place a spoonful of the jam on the plate. After a minute, tilt the plate, and if the jam doesn't run then it's ready. If it does run, cook it for 5 more minutes and test again. Continue to test until it doesn't run.

Pour jam into hot jars, leaving a bit of headspace. Cover with lids and fasten with rings. Allow to cool and then refrigerate. I find that it can last for a few months in the refrigerator.

PS - I already might have already started decorating...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Creamy Parmesan and Lemon Chicken

This is one of those recipes you can make as is or bedazzle the hell out of. Mushrooms, olives, or artichoke hearts would be welcome additions though it's pretty damn good as is. I labelled it 'fast' because you don't have to saute the shallots or green onions first but can just chop and mix them with the rest of the ingredients. Even better you can whip up the 'sauce' the night before and keep in the fridge until you're ready to assemble. Or even assemble the whole dish, cover it, and refrigerate overnight before baking off uncovered in a cold oven at 350 for 35-40 minutes.

Though it's not a pretty dish I'd serve this to friends who wouldn't judge me for it. Come to think of it I wouldn't serve food to any other kind. And since I'm laying it all out on the line here, I have to admit if I had my druthers, I'd flatten the chicken a little to keep the sauce-to-chicken-ratio equal from start to finish. Because at the end of the day, ain't it all about the sauce?

Creamy Parmesan and Lemon Chicken
* recipe easily doubled. As is, sauce will accommodate up to 3 medium chicken breast cutlets

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets
1/2 cup sour cream (light is fine)
3 oz cream cheese (sold in little 3 oz packages in some stores)
2 teaspoons whole grain dijon mustard
1/4 cup white wine or chicken stock (use less salt if using stock)
1 fat green onion, chopped plus another for garnish
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
zest of a small lemon or 1/2 of a large
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan, plus additional for topping (if desired)
pinch black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a tiny pinch to season breasts
pinch red pepper flakes, optional
handful chopped fresh basil, optional

Spray a small/medium casserole dish with nonstick spray and set aside. Meanwhile, mix together the sour cream, cream cheese, dijon, wine or stock, green onion, shallot, garlic powder, lemon zest, Parmesan, peppers, salt and basil if using in a medium bowl.

Place your chicken breasts in your greased dish, lightly season with salt and pepper, then pour the sauce evenly over and around the chicken covering them completely.

Either cover and refrigerate overnight until baking or bake right away at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until the edges of the dish are bubbling and the chicken is cooked through. If topping with extra Parmesan, be sure to sprinkle it over in the last 10 minutes of baking so it gets brown but doesn't burn. Garnish with additional green onions or fresh herbs and serve with rice or noodles.

*As stated above, if you are assembling this ahead and refrigerating it, place the dish uncovered in a cold oven, heat to 350 and bake for 35 minutes just until the sauce around the edges is bubbling and the chicken is cooked all the way through.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hummus Pizza with Kalamata, Feta and Basil

I made this a few weeks ago when Kris was out of town. That's about the only time I can get away with making a pizza covered in hummus. But that doesn't stop me from fantasizing about it. Night after night.

After night.

Hummus Pizza with Kalamata, Feta and Basil

1 fresh pizza dough crust, rolled thin to about a 12x14 inch diameter
Small handful cornmeal or grits, optional
10 oz store bought hummus (I prefer Sonny & Joe's, found at Whole Foods) mixed with zest of 1 lemon
3 zuchinni cut into 1/4 inch dice (don't leave this out! The sweetness against the salty feta and kalamata MAKES it!)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup feta cheese
3 tablespoons roughly chopped kalamata olives (seeds removed)
Couple handfuls fresh basil

Heat the oven to 350 then grease a large rimmed cookie sheet with nonstick spray. Add the diced zuchinni, drizzle with just enough oil to coat, season with salt and pepper and and roast at 375 for 35 min. Set aside while you prepare the rest.

Kick up the heat to 450 or 500, depending on what your instructions are for your particular pizza dough. Transfer the dough to a greased cookie sheet (I like to sprinkle some grits or cornmeal on the sheet before adding the dough onto it for texture and easier removal) and bake until the crust is just golden and beginning to brown at the edges. Remove from the oven and spread with the hummus/lemon zest mixture. Sprinkle the roasted zuchinni evenly over the top, then the oregano, feta and kalamata. Finish with fresh basil, cut and serve (add salt/pepper if desired.) Slice and serve.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cheeseburger Pie and Going Back to your Roots.

Like that classy paper plate, huh? i thought so. Well I don't have a lot of time lately between work and my new (old) hobby horseback riding. I grew up riding horses. It was the reason I got up in the morning until I discovered boys... and fashion. Long story short, I got a horse in college from country star Clay Walker. It's not as fancy as it sounds. She wasn't pricey and was what they call a 'short sale' because Clay's (ex) wife despised the woman she bought her from and wanted to get rid of her quickly out of spite. Anyhow the horse - Barbie - had to stay behind in TX when I got my first advertising job in San Francisco.

We wouldn't reunite for almost 4 years when Kris and I moved to Minnesota for another advertising job where I could finally afford to board her. There was only one problem. In those 4 years Barbie had gone completely lame (if your daughter or son ever wants a horse - God help you.) I tried corrective shoes, chiropractics, what have you which got us by for a year or so before it was clear she would never really be ridable again. So finally I did what any self respecting animal lover would do and shot her.

Just kidding. I bred her so she could at least do something she'd always wanted to do (seriously - she's the only mare I've ever known to actually cry every time she sees a colt.) So Barbie had a little girl - Dolly (named after Dolly Parton as she too is a palomino. All my creativity goes out the window when it comes to naming horses.)

So no sooner is Dolly born than we get another job in NYC. Us ad folk aren't known for our loyalty... Anyhow the girls had to stay behind until I could ferret out an affordable place to board them in New Jersey. Dolly grew up there, finally started training, and then Kris and I decided to risk our entire future and move back home to Texas.

Once again the girls went for a long car ride. So now that we were back where we started I had a lame mama horse (pasture ornament) and her half broke yet well travelled daughter. It took another year - just this past vacation break - for me to have the time to really work with my wonderful trainer and Dolly to figure out what the hell I was doing (still working on it, with the black and blue thighs to prove it.)

And it sounds so completely stupid, but now that I'm back in the saddle again - finally - I've never been happier. If you're not doing what you loved doing when you were 8 years old then you should stop reading right this second and go take it up again. And (clunky segue) here - the same logic applies when it comes to recipes. As fancy or exotic as my tastes may get in my old age, it's always the old school, basic recipes that really curl my toes.

Take Cheeseburger Pie which is just as it sounds. A layer of ground beef topped with tomatoes topped with a cheddar and bisquick mixture that some how forms a crust that brings it all together. The shallots, green onions, and spices are all optional. Just don't forget the salt and pepper or it'll be the great disappointment pie.

Cheeseburger Pie
Feeds 6-8, depending on side dishes.

teaspoon oil
½ cup chopped shallots
1 garlic clove, minced
pinch kosher salt
1 pound ground beef
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon chili powder
pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
½ teaspoon worchestershire sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, or as much as you like
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk (low fat is fine just don't use skim)
3/4 cup biscuit baking mix (Bisquick, y'all)

Preheat oven to 400. Spray a large deep dish pie plate with nonstick spray and set aside.

Add the oil to a nonstick skillet and put over medium heat. Let heat through for 1 minute then add the shallots and garlic, seasoning with a pinch of salt and some fresh cracked pepper. Cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes until beginning to turn translucent then add the beef, breaking up with your wooden spoon. Continue cooking until the meat has browned. Drain the beef mixture in a colander, return the beef/shallot/garlic mixture to the pan and stir in the green onions, dried mustard, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, red pepper flakes, and chili powder (and more pepper if desired.)

Once combined, transfer the beef mixture to the sprayed pie plate, pressing down to spread evenly. Press into an ungreased 9-in. pie plate. Meanwhile combine the drained tomatoes with the worchestershire, ketcup and salt (I do it right in the tomato can.) Pour the mixture over the beef, distributing evenly.

Spread the shredded cheese evenly over the tomatoes. Then in a bowl, combine the eggs, milk, biscuit mix and a pinch of salt just until combined. Pour over cheese. Bake at 400 degrees F in the center of the oven for 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Let rest/set up for 10 minutes, uncovered, before serving. Serve with a salad for a whole meal.