Blog Archives

A Sweet Treat for Spring

My latest work in progress takes place in a Bed and Breakfast in coastal North Carolina.  Some days, I feel like I’m writing a cookbook, there are so many references to food.  If you follow me on Pinterest, I’ll be creating a board with all the recipes once the first draft is complete.  For now, I wanted to share a recipe for a great spring treat–just in time for Easter.

strawberry brownie heartsLast month, a good friend of mine hosted a fundraiser for TurningPoint, a Breast Cancer rehabilitation center here in Georgia.  Everything about the party was pink–including the foods.  These strawberry brownies were a huge hit!  They’re perfect cut into hearts for Valentine’s Day, for bridal or baby showers or for a little girl’s birthday party. (The boys will love them, too.)

Strawberry Browniesstrawberry brownies

Adapted from: Family Savvy
Serves: 14-16

Ingredients

Brownies:
• 1 box strawberry cake mix (any brand will do as long as it doesn’t have pudding in the mix
• 
2 large eggs
• 
1/3 cup oil
Glaze:
• 
1 cup powdered sugar
• ½ -2 TB milk (it depends on how thick you want your glaze)
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line 9×13 baking pan with parchment (and spray with Pam. Make sure you get the sides).
3. Mix strawberry cake mix, eggs, and oil with hand mixer until well combined, about two minutes.
4. Pour batter into pan. Note: batter will be tacky, similar to taffy. Be sure to spread it evenly so brownies bake evenly.
5. Bake for 15 minutes or until just set; be careful not to overcook.
6. Allow brownies to cool for 10 minutes; lift carefully from pan using ends of parchment to lift.
7. Mix powdered sugar and water until smooth.
8. Pour glaze over brownies, spreading to edges with pastry brush so that glaze will drip down sides.
9. Allow brownies to cool and glaze to set before cutting into squares.

cover-for-BTBWhile you’re enjoying these great eats, check out the first book in my Second Chances series, BACK TO BEFORE.  You’ll get a first look at the Tide Me Over Inn and it’s famous cupcakes.  Happy Spring!

Twist on Thanksgiving

Had an interesting Thanksgiving dinner this last week. Not that anything unusual happened, only the way it happened. My family and I drove south this year to spend the holidays with his side of the family. My husband’s sisters and parents live within miles of each other in South Florida and we thought it would be fun to go “tropical.” However, since we didn’t give a whole heck of a lot of notice on our decision (my husband can be very spur of the moment), they didn’t plan on centering their focus on us.

One sister was celebrating with friends, one sister was celebrating with her son’s girlfriend’s family, the nieces (sisters) were working and celebrating together with a fried version of the bird and his parents? Well, let’s just say they bowed out of all invitations for a quiet day at home alone together. They’re eighty-three. Big dinners take a lot of work. Hmph. Now what?

mashed sweets

How about bring the dinner with you? And while you’re at it, add a few chairs, a table–heck, we have a lot of bodies heading into their small home with no place to put them! So that’s what we did. Packed up a turkey and all the fixins’ — including all the ingredients to prepare the entire dinner and dessert — grab a table and chairs and throw them back into the Suburban. We’re going on a road trip!

Not my favorite time of year to be on the roads, mind you, but turns out, our traffic wasn’t bad. Wednesday night we didn’t hit any trouble and for the return, we only hit a couple of snafus. I think the secret is to leave late. By the time we hit the road, everyone was already well on their way home, headed back up north. So all in all, not a bad drive. And what a great dinner! I put the turkey in the oven the night we arrived and it was ready to eat come three o’clock. Easy. Whipped up a few mashed potatoes, plate of stuffing, cranberry, gravy, rolls and poof. Thanksgiving dinner! It was our version of “Meals on Wheels.” For those of you not familiar with the group, Meals on Wheels is an organization dedicated to feeding our seniors by bringing the nutrition straight to the door of those with limited mobility.

All in all it was a great weekend. Good food, good company and even a spot of fishing and tennis. Definitely counting our blessings in the Venetta household!

 

Sweet Spring Onions

My sweet onions are ready for harvest!  Is there a better sign that spring is in the air?

Okay, so spring isn’t in the air everywhere at the moment and I should know–the family and I just flew home from Denver, CO where Old Man Winter is blowing hard and furious.  But the cold will make this recipe all the sweeter. 🙂  It’s sweet and savory and the aroma alone will delight your senses.

If you like French Onion Soup, you’re going to LOVE this dish.  While a sure-fire hit in the fall, this delicacy is welcome in my home any time of the year.   Taken from the magazine, Cuisine at Home, it’s simple and easy to make, much like homemade French Onion Soup.   And worth every minute.   Sliced onions cooked until they caramelize are a guaranteed winner in any household and when you add cheese, the whole world turns sweeter.   Especially when we’re talking Gruyère cheese.   (Is your mouth watering yet?)

Baked Sweet Onions

Onions au Gratin

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

8 cups sliced sweet onions

1/2 cup dry sherry or chicken broth (I used sherry)

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/2 cup shredded Gruyère cheese

1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved (I skipped these)

Preheat oven to 400°F

Melt butter in a large cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet over medium heat.  Add onions, stirring until slightly softened to make room in the pan (I don’t know what this means—I just sautéed the correct amount of onions); cover and cook until completely softened, 10 minutes.

Add sherry, thyme, and bay leaves; increase heat to medium-high.  Sauté, uncovered, until the liquid evaporates and onions are browning, stirring occasionally, 10-15 minutes (mine may have been 20 minutes, but caramelizing onions is a fairly forgiving process).

Combine cheeses, then stir 1/2 cup of cheese mixture into onion mixture.  Top with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and bake until cheese is bubbly and browned, about 20 minutes.

Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaves, then sprinkle with olives.  Let stand to cool slightly before serving.

Makes 4 servings.   Total time: approx. 50 minutes.

Cuisine at Home is a great publication.  Not only does it offer phenomenal recipes, but it includes color photographs of the cooking process.  Indispensable for novices like myself!

Enjoy!

 

Pecan Tarts

Following in Dianne’s awesome culinary footsteps…I thought I’d share what I will be making tomorrow night.  My mother’s pecan tarts.  I do not have a picture yet, but once I do, I’ll put this in the recipe tab.

Each year, my daughter and I go through my mother’s old recipe box that I confiscated (stole) after she passed away. 🙂   We decide what we will attempt that season, out of her handwritten recipes.

So here you go, exactly how my mother wrote it…and fair warning…they are addictive.

Pecan Tarts

1) 8oz pkg cream cheese
1 1/4c butter (stick)
2 1/2c flour

Blend softened cheese and butter.  Stir in flour.  Chill for 1 hour.  Shape into 1″ balls.  Place in ungreased muffin cups, and press dough to bottom and sides.

Make filling:
3 eggs
2c brown sugar
2 1/2 tbsp soft butter (stick)
2 1/2 tsp vanilla
1  2/3c chopped pecans
Dash of salt

Beat together till smooth, all except pecans.  Divide half the pecans among cups, lining the bottoms, add the filling.  Top with the rest of pecans.

Bake at 325 degrees, 28 mins. Cool then remove.

Enjoy!!!

Cranberry Bread

One of our favorite goodies to share this season is cranberry orange bread.  I discovered this recipe on a trip to Kennebunkport, Maine at a lovely Bed and Breakfast Inn by the name of Captain Lord Mansion. It was years ago.  Frankly, I don’t care to admit how many years, but numerous to be sure.  🙂 Translated:  they may not serve this bread anymore but when they did, it was warm and accompanied by a bowl of oatmeal.  While its delicious plain, butter makes for a delightful addition. 

So this year, if you’re looking to bring  a smile to someone’s face and you want to try something new, give this one a chance.  It’s a hit with everyone who tries it, cranberry lovers or not!

Cranberry Bread

With this recipe, they say to make sure it is made exactly as written. Or as close to exact as possible.  I don’t follow recipes to a “T” and this one still manages to come out delicious. 🙂 So feel free to experiment!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together in large bowl:

2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

5 cups flour

2 1/2 cups sugar

3 tsp baking powder

In small bowl using a hand mixer, place the following ingredients one at a time. Beat vigorously after each addition.

2 eggs

8 TBSP melted butter

2 cups orange juice

1 cup water

Make well in dry ingredients and pour at once wet into well. Stir until moist.

Fold in

2 cups whole cranberries (can be frozen)

Pour into 3 greased and floured pans and bake for 1 hour — careful NOT to over bake.  Check with knife — should come out clean.  Serve warm and enjoy.  Freezes well.

%d bloggers like this: