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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!

Watch Out for Flying Pigs!

Why, you ask? Because for the first time ever, I’m sharing a recipe on Women Unplugged. It’s not that I don’t like to share, but I’m not exactly known for my cooking. But if I had a signature recipe, a recipe others routinely requested, it would be this. Pumpkin Bread.medium_5274906480

That’s it? Pumpkin bread? Pumpkin bread recipes are a dime a dozen. Yes, I know. But this one is better. Guaranteed. Go ahead and make it and see if I’m wrong… You can thank me later 😉

Pumpkin Bread:

1 tsp. grated nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar (a little less if you add white chocolate chips)
1 cup cooked, mashed or canned pumpkin
2/3 cup water
1 cup cooking oil
4 eggs
1 bag white chocolate chips (optional, but why wouldn’t you?? Dark may also be substituted, but white is better)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, flour and sugar in large mixing bowl. Add the pumpkin, water, oil, and eggs and mix well. Spray or grease three 11 to 13 ounce coffee cans (or loaf pans) and divide the batter evenly among the cans or pans.

Bake for one hour or more, until brown or until a bamboo skewer comes out clean. Stand the cans upright on a rack for 15 minutes. Invert cans and remove the bread. Serve warm or stand the break upright on a rack and cool and wrap. Can also be made as muffins or even sheet cake.

Savor this moment, WU fans. It won’t happen again 🙂
photo credit: mccun934 via photopin cc

Flip Flops & Belly Flops

This weekend, we spent Easter at my mom’s. My youngest sister came out for the weekend and brought her two girls. My sister-in-law, after a wonderful vacation in Hawaii and despite three feet of snow still on the ground, showed up in flip flops and a tan. It was warm out, so she was celebrating spring.

I was in charge of the baking. I make peanut butter-butterscotch-marshmallow squares, which happens to be a family favourite. For the first time in years, the butterscotch chips melted on the very first try. I didn’t have to boil the heck out the recipe just to get them half melted. (Thank you, Hershey, for finally improving your Chipits mix!)

Angel Food CakeAfter my success with the squares, I was feeling pretty confident and so I moved on to the Angel Food cake. It came out of a box, not from scratch, so it was a no-brainer. As long as nobody thumped across the floor while it was in the oven, I was guaranteed success.

I only wish I’d taken pictures to show the mess I created …

I pulled out the bowl, the mixer, and my two cup measuring cup, dumped the contents from the cake mix into the bowl and proceeded to measure the water. The recipe called for one and a quarter cups of water, so I carefully measured the water, poured it into the bowl, and mixed it. Very quickly, the mixture threatened to flow over the edges of the bowl. I barely managed to keep it contained, then poured it into the Angel Food cake pan, and slid it into the oven.

While it cooked, I could smell something odd, almost like burned sugar. My oven had been cooking things quicker than normal, so I’d adjusted the time as I didn’t want to overcook the cake. Forty-minutes later, the buzzer went off and I opened the oven door.

My heart sank in my chest. The cake was half the size of the pan. I pulled it out of the oven, turned the pan upside down to let it cool, and the cake instantly belly flopped out of the pan onto the counter. What the heck?

My son and I stood there, staring at the mess on the counter. The top inch of the mix had cooked, but the rest of the cake was a mushy half-cooked mess. What had gone wrong? I had no time to figure it out because I had to head back to the store.

This time, I bought two mixes, just in case the cake flopped again. As I proceeded to begin the whole process over again, I lifted my two cup measuring cup and realized … I’d had one and a quarter cups on the brain, so had filled the entire two cups with water and counted it as one cup. Duh!

The second cake came out perfect (well, except for the part that exploded out of the pan and landed on the oven floor) and after our Easter dinner, we served it with strawberries and vanilla ice cream, the perfect end to a perfect dinner.

Will I ever make this mistake again? You bet. I’ve made the same mistake before, while my mind has been occupied with more important things, like plot holes and wonky character growth and non-existent settings. Hmmm, maybe it’s time to buy a one cup measuring cup.

Please tell me about your cooking disasters because I love to hear how other people make a mess in their kitchen. 🙂

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!

 

Are You A Cooking-Cleaning-Gardening Machine?

Whenever I come across The Good Wife’s Guide, I always wonder what life was really like for the women in the 50’s. Did they actually greet their husbands at the door with his favorite slippers and drink in hand? Or did they — the moment he walked into the house — shove the screaming kids into his arms so they could take a much needed break?

So check out The Good Wife Guide below and tell me which item you’re most likely to follow and which one you’re most likely to ignore.

The Good Wife’s Guide

1. Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have be thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they get home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.

2. Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.

3. Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.

4. Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Run a dustcloth over the tables.

5. During the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering to his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.

6. Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Encourage the children to be quiet.

7. Be happy to see him.

8. Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.

9. Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first – remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.

10. Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.

11. Don’t complain if he’s late for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through at work.

12. Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or lie him down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.

13. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.

14. Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.

15. A good wife always knows her place.

Which is The Good Wife Rule you most often adhere to? And which one do you most often ignore? My reply will be below in the comment section. 🙂

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