Bourbon Peach Cobbler

Peach Cobbler2

Picture this:

I’m sitting at my desk at work daydreaming about cooking, the blog and food (which, is pretty par for the course), and it suddenly dawns on me that the summer is winding down, and I haven’t made a single peach dessert. That’s like a crime, right? Pretty sure it’s probably illegal in some states. I immediately resolved to fix this error and bake something with peaches in it before summer was over and I missed my chance.

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As I always do when I resolve to bake or cook something, I polled the family to see what it was they would be interested in eating with peaches in it. I was feeling gung ho about a peach pie, but the general consensus leaned more in the direction of a peach cobbler. Now in all honesty,  I’ve got nothing against cobblers. They’re fine, they taste good, but I’ve always half-thought that cobblers are really just pies that never quite got their act together and grew up. In a family of fruit dessert overachievers, the cobbler is the wayward rebel kid that’s really charming and suave, but didn’t go to college or get a job and can’t stay in a stable relationship.

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Jas and I got into a mini debate about this. She’s somehow under the impression that cobbler’s superior to pie because in pie there’s such a thing as “too much crust” that “overpowers” the fruit filling. She only needs the top crust that a cobbler provides.

Let me repeat: she thinks there’s such a thing as too.much.crust.

Yeah, I know. I’m definitely the smarter twin.

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But, you know, whatever. I can’t just cook for myself and to be honest peach cobbler is a world of a lot easier to make than peach pie. So I decided to go with the cobbler and save the pie for a day when I’m feeling selfish and have more time to make the crust from scratch. I had a recipe from Tyler Florence bookmarked in my Food Network recipe box for a very long time and that’s what I went with here. I did leave the bourbon out of the cobbler, so that it would be cool for my baby niece to eat, but I’m sure it adds a great compliment to the sweetness of the peaches. Rather than just throw it all in one of my glass baking dishes, I just baked it in the cast iron skillet I cooked the peaches in. It looks so much more homey and rustic, don’t you think?

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I also tried out a fool-proof method of peeling peaches that won’t result in you removing too much of the fruit while trying to get rid of the skin.  I’m sure some of you already know this, but for those that don’t, it’s really pretty simple: set a pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Fill another bowl with ice water. Drop the peaches into the boiling water, and leave them there for about 45-60 seconds. Fish them out and immediately drop them into the bowl of ice water. Let them sit for about 2-3 minutes then take out. The skins should literally come off just by rubbing your fingers over the peaches. Voila.

I’m taking this cobbler to the Fiesta Friday #33 party this week, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted by Andrea @Cooking with a Wallflower and Sylvia @Superfoodista. It’s the freakin’ weekend, so go out and have yourself some fun alright? ;-)

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 Bourbon Peach Cobbler

Recipe Courtesy of Tyler Florence

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 8 peaches, peeled and sliced, about 6 to 8 cups
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
  • Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl add the peaches, bourbon, 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon and mix well to coat the peaches evenly; set aside.

3. Prepare the dumplings: Into a bowl sift together the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter into small pieces. Add it to the flour mixture and cut it in with a pastry blender or your hands until the mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs. Pour in the cream and mix just until the dough comes together. Don’t overwork; the dough should be slightly sticky but manageable.

4. In a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium-low heat, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Add the peaches and cook gently until heated through, about 5 minutes. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls over the warm peaches. There can be gaps, the dough will puff up and spread out as it bakes.

5. Brush the top with some heavy cream and sprinkle with some turbinado sugar; put it into the oven on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Cook for 40 to 45 minutes until the top is browned and the fruit is bubbling.

Squash Casserole

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When I was putting this post together, I couldn’t stop thinking about this game that me and my twin sister Jas would play when we were little kids.

We grew up in the 90’s, where there were still such things as boom boxes, walkmans and cassette tapes around. I’m sure most of you still remember those, but for the ‘youngins’ that don’t, it’s cool- just google it. Anyway, my mom kept a large number of blank cassette tapes around that she used to make copies of music albums or church sermons. Eventually it got to the point where we had too many lying around that really weren’t serving any particular purpose.

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Jas and I has this weird quality of being able to make a game out of just about anything. Blank cassette tapes were no different, and one summer day we came up with the idea of using the cassette tapes, as well as two double deck boom boxes we had to record ourselves in a game. We would pretend that we were DJs on our very own imaginary radio station. I played the radio station’s primary ‘Host’, and Jas played the primary ‘Sponsor’- (why the sponsor would be on the actual broadcast of the radio show, I don’t know but we always just stuck with that title).

We even gave it a name and slogan: “WSFJ-Where Jesus Is the Way.” We gathered together all of our music cassette tapes and assembled a playlist of mixed Christian contemporary music that we recorded onto the tapes using the double deck. In the true style of actual radio stations, we had commercial breaks in between the songs where Jas as the ‘Sponsor’ would give product endorsements, ads and recommendations. We had a Book Club segment where we shared our favorite books and read off our favorite excerpts. Then there was even a Debate & Discussion segment where the two of us would discuss and debate various topics on the air, taking ‘questions’ from imaginary ‘callers’.

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 It may sound silly to you all now, but for us, it was a real blast. I think we accumulated over seven double sided cassette tapes from our imaginary little ‘radio station’.My mom insisted we keep them even after we grew up, saying that we would like listening to them later.  And it’s nothing if not entertaining  to listen a period in my life when I was young, silly and just having a lot of fun with something seemingly ordinary that me and Jas were able to turn into something we made a lot of fun.

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 What does that have to do with this post? Well, zucchini is one of those things that people tend to have a whole lot of around this time of year as they harvest their gardens, then try to find as many uses of it as possible just to not let it go to waste. When they run out of ideas, they usually start handing it out to other people to see if they can find something to do with it. Unfortunately, I don’t have a personal garden to grow my own zucchini, but fortunately I know a few people that do. And when they unload some of their surplus zucchini on me, I like finding other uses for it other than just zucchini bread (not that zucchini bread isn’t awesome enough on its own.)

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This recipe is one of the easiest, but tastiest ones I’ve ever tried when cooking with zucchini. Once you get our zucchini all chopped up, it all literally comes together in minutes and bakes in less than thirty. I serve it as a side dish, but it’s certainly good enough to eat all on it’s own. I used regular butter Ritz crackers to top it, but I can also see using some other flavored crackers to give it a twist, like ones flavored with garlic or herbs.

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Squash Casserole

Recipe Courtesy of Paula Deen

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 6 cups large diced yellow squash and zucchini
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon your favorite seasoning blend (like Mrs. Dash or Emeril’s Essence)
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup crushed butter crackers (recommended: Ritz)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Saute the squash in a little vegetable oil over medium-low heat until it has completely broken down, about 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Line a colander with a clean tea towel. Place the cooked squash in the lined colander. Squeeze excess moisture from the squash. Set aside.

4. In a medium size skillet, saute the onion in butter for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and mix all ingredients together except cracker crumbs.

5. Pour mixture into a buttered casserole dish and top with cracker crumbs. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve.

Zucchini Pizza Lasagna

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My mom is really, really REALLY crafty.

When I say that, I mean that she’s one of those people who can take the most ordinary, seemingly common objects and turn them into something really cool and awesome.This happened a lot when we were little kids. She would buy one of the cheap stuffed animals from the dollar store, then go to the fabric store to buy the clearance fabrics that she would sew into beautiful, sometimes even elaborate dresses to dress the animals in. A lot of the glass and porcelain knick knacks and show pieces in my grandma’s living room are ones that my mom bought from the dollar store and jazzed up on our her own so that they look like they came from a gift shop and cost a fortune. For a while, she even made and sold floral wreaths and jewelry boxes.

When I was around six or seven, me and my sisters were in our church’s Vacation Bible School in the summertime for kids and there was this costume contest. We didn’t have a lot of money at that time, and certainly not enough for my mom to buy three girls fancy costumes to wear. So, being the crafty, innovative person that she is, she decided to construct costumes for all of using items she already had in our house.

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Oh yeah, and I should probably mention that the items were white garbage bags, silver wrapping paper ribbon, glitter and dress-up wigs (two pink, and one blue). The result? Three little angels.

My mom sprinkled glitter over the white garbage bags, then cut holes out of them to fit our arms and legs. She then used the silver ribbon to cinch them at the waist, then curled the ends so that the bags looked like dresses. After putting on the wigs and a little bit of lipstick and blush, our costumes for the contest were complete.

I know it sounds weird and crazy now, but I can still remember feeling so pretty in that costume at the time. I thought my mom was a genius and was so proud of her for coming up with the idea. The reality is that instead of angels, the three of us looked like The Paper Bag Princess meets The Jetsons.

I can’t decide whether the greater miracle was that no one laughed or made fun of us…or that me and my sisters actually won that costume contest.

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Unfortunately, I don’t have my mom’s crafty abilities in using ordinary objects to create physical art that wins contests and makes money.Art’s not my thing- never has been, and likely never will be. I’m just a home cook. However that does mean that I can take ordinary ingredients that some people (including myself) may underestimate and make them into a dish that really exceeds even my own expectations. That’s what happened with this dish.

Small confession: I don’t like ordinary lasagna. For one, I hate ricotta cheese. Two, there’s something about the texture of the noodles, that puts me off. So for years, I’ve just avoided it all together. But then, I found myself with a whole lot of zucchini that I simply had to find something to do with that didn’t involve zucchini bread. I’ve seen variations of this dish done before, so I decided to create my own rendition, specially tailored for my ricotta/lasagna noodle-hating tastes.

I was REALLY impressed with how this came out.  The zucchini is such a great alternative to the pasta, and I actually think it’s a vast improvement on the original. It tastes like pure comfort food, and I’m planning on adding it to the dinner rotation for my family as a regular dish. I’m also bringing it to the party at this week’s Fiesta Friday #32, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener . Give it a try, folks. I don’t think you’ll regret it :-)

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Zucchini Pizza Lasagna

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2-3 Large Zucchini
  • 1-2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 15 oz. cans of pizza sauce
  • 1 1/2lb ground beef
  • 1lb roll of pork (or turkey) sausage
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 7 oz. pouch of pepperoni
  • 8 oz. shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Using a mandolin (or a VERY sharp knife), slice zucchini length-wise into very thin slices, about 1/8 thick.

3. Lay slices on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and sprinkle liberally with salt. Bake in oven for about 10-12 minutes.

4. Using a paper towel, press all the remaining moisture from the zucchini and set aside.

5. Brown ground beef and sausage together in a pan, then drain off excess fat. In same skillet, saute onion and bell pepper in same skillet, until softened.

6. Pour pizza sauce into a bowl and stir in the ground beef, sausage, onion and bell pepper.

7. Turn up oven heat to 375°. Spray an 11 x 13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Layer the zucchini slices in the bottom and spread with pizza sauce. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over sauce, then lay pepperoni over cheese. Repeat layers, ending with pizza sauce.

8. Cover lasagna with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle top with the parmesan cheese. Bake for 10 more minutes.

9. Remove lasagna from oven and heat broiler. Place back in oven and bake until cheese is browned, about 2-3 minutes.

10. Allow lasagna to sit for about 30 minutes before eating to allow to settle. Serve.

My Grandma’s Collard Greens

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Happy Fiesta Friday #31, all! I’m super glad to be headed to today’s party hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener. I wanted to save this recipe for a Fiesta Friday because it’s not only one of the best things I’ve ever made, but also because it is very, VERY special to me and my family heritage. A few weeks back, I made a full-blown Southern Meal for my family with Triple Dipped Fried Chicken and Hushpuppies on the side- but as delicious as both the chicken and hushpuppies were, they just wouldn’t have been complete as a meal without this dish.My Grandma’s parents were farmers in Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi. I was too young to be able too be there in their hey-day and see the farm as it was when they weren’t older and infirm, but I’ve heard plenty of stories from my Grandma, Mom and Aunts.

Even though they all lived in Michigan, every summer my Grandpa would take my Grandma and their three daughters down to Mississippi for the summer to visit my Great-Grandparents on their farm. My mom didn’t really like it, for a number of reasons:

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First, she was a self-described “city girl”. My great-grandparents’ farm was literally a on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Because it was the summertime in the Deep South in the mid 70’s, there was (of course) no air conditioning, and the majority of the windows were left open at all hours of the day and night in order to allow the breeze to cool down the house. My mom (having just read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote) was convinced that a serial killer was going to break into the house and murder everyone and tells me that she used to walk around the house, checking and re-checking doors and windows for intruders.

Second, my mom couldn’t get into the whole ‘ farm experience’. My great-grandpa’s enormous hunting dogs on the porch frightened her by running up to the car and surrounding it every time they drove up to the house. Apparently the chickens were demon possessed and chased her around everywhere. Plus, a lot of the food that got served on the table at my great-grandparents’ house came from the farm itself- including the meat. My mom had a hard time eating the chicken that she saw get shot, decapitated, plucked, and butchered just a few hours ago.

One thing she consistently talks about, are the big ‘Meetins’ that they all used to attend. For those who aren’t Southern or aren’t familiar with the Baptist tradition, the big ‘Meetins’ (you have to say it just like that, no ‘g’s allowed) consisted of large gatherings of the local Churches where they would all hold one, long service that LITERALLY lasted all day long, then conclude with a pot-luck style feast composed of all the dishes that each of the women would make before hand and bring to share.

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At any true Southern church meetin, you’re guaranteed to find a pot of greens. They’re almost like a symbol of the South itself. When you eat them, you can practically taste all the history and soul that they come from with every bite.

My Grandma’s greens are the thing of legend. Collard Greens, Mustard Greens, Turnip Greens, and (my personal favorite) Cabbage Greens. She does them all, and she does them all perfectly. I’ve said it before on the blog, and I’m gonna say it again: her greens would be on the menu of foods I would have to eat if I was on Death Row and given a last meal to eat. Give me a big bowl of greens and two hunks of her cornbread, and I don’t even need meat. They’re really that good.

The greens that she makes for the family come straight out of her backyard garden, but I’ve also made this recipe with greens that I’ve bought at grocery stores and farmer’s markets- however, if you know someone who grows greens or can get to a farmer’s market, then I do strongly recommend that you get them that way. The quality of homegrown greens is so much better than the ones you get in the stores.

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My grandma usually uses whole ham hocks to flavor her greens, but because I know that not everyone can get their hands on those (and because depending on where you live, they can get pretty pricey), I adapted this recipe so that it’s do-able for just about anywhere using regular bacon (note: you CAN also use turkey bacon, or even smoked turkey instead of the pork). This recipe is also one where you’re going to have to use your personal taste-testing skills to judge how much or how little seasoning you add. I judge what to add or not add by tasting the liquid given off by the greens after they’ve been cooking half-way through or so (we call that stuff the Pot Likker in the South, and it’s friggin awesome). When they’re done, i do have to emphasize that cornbread with greens is a must- one hunk for dipping in the pot likker, and another hunk for crumbling over the greens themselves.Oh, and if you have access to some zesty, jarred Southern Cha Cha (some people call it Chow Chow), then you need to sprinkle some of that on top too. It’ll send your bowl of greens and cornbread over the edge and into the galaxies of awesomeness.

 I’ve got this down to a science, can’t you tell?

Try this dish, guys. I don’t care if you have so-called ‘picky eaters’ in your house- I was one of those people growing up too. And I STILL couldn’t get enough of these greens.

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My Grandma’s Collard Greens

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 6 bunches of collard greens, washed, stems removed, and sliced into about 1/2 inch thick strips
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 16 oz. thick cut bacon
  • Onion powder
  • Sugar
  • Salt and black pepper
  • About 1 1/2—2 cups low sodium chicken broth

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 450°. Arrange bacon on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10-12 minutes. (The bacon is not supposed to be crispy– it’s okay if it’s still a little floppy or limp.)

2. Remove bacon from tray and roughly chop into lardons, or large chunks. Set aside.

3. Drain the remaining drippings and grease from the sheet pan into a bowl and set aside.

4. Place the greens in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the chicken broth, onion and bacon and mix together. Season the greens with onion powder, sugar, salt and pepper to taste.

5. Cover and allow to cook until greens are tender and wilted, about 35-45minutres, depending on how tender or firm you like them. Make sure the liquid doesn’t get absorbed, or they’ll scorch!

6. Taste the juice the greens are cooking in and adjust for seasoning.

Hawaiian Bread

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When my throat’s sore.

When my nose’s stuffed.

When I’m feeling sick.

I simply remember my favorite things- and that always does the trick. (Don’t laugh. You try coming up with a rhyme on the spot like that.)

So yeah guys: I’ve been ill with a pretty bad cold over the past few days. The blame lies with twin sister Jas, who had it first, then so graciously passed it on to me. Thanks a heap, Jas. Just because we’re twins, doesn’t mean we have to share EVERYTHING.

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Not gonna lie, the past few days have been kinda miserable; I contracted the worst sinus infection, and as such was unable breathe properly through my nose- which is one of my BIGGEST pet peeves/irritations. My head felt like it was hit by a mallet from the pressure in my sinuses. I had to get up from my desk at work every five minutes to go to the bathroom to blow my nose (because I’m too self-conscious to do that in public). I  also have the voice of a 20+ year chain smoker right about now.

But rather than spend this post holding a personal pity party for myself, I decided instead to just stay positive and focus on the silver lining in the clouds. Maybe if I think on some of my favorite things, this friggin cold won’t seem so very bad.

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Favorite Food: Pancakes. Hands down. No competition.

Favorite Day of the Week: Friday. (…Partyin, partyin’ yeah! Partyin’ Partyin’ yeah!) Am I the only one thinks of that darn crappy song at the very mention of the word?

Favorite Movie: A & E’s “Pride and Prejudice” (Starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth) This movie can literally make everything that’s going bad in my world suddenly feel fine. It’s just perfection itself.

Favorite Thing to Wear: Loose fitting shirt with black yoga pants or leggings. It’s a look that can be casual, comfortable, and even cute.

Favorite Book of All Time: This one is a tough one to narrow down, but I have to say it’s “Forever Amber” by Kathleen Windsor; this book is the best historical fiction I’ve ever read- and I’ve read a lot. I always read it at least once a year.

Favorite Cartoon Character: Daria Morgendorffer- I loved watching this show when I was younger and as soon as it came out on DVD, you better believe
I snatched it up. Daria’s dry wit was just classic.

Favorite Weather: Blue/Gray sky with thick & fluffy clouds, where the temperature is around 60-70 degrees outside. It just makes the atmosphere seem so calm and mellow.

Favorite Time of Year: November 1st-December 24th. Thanksgiving and the Christmas season is LITERALLY my favorite time to be alive during the year. I love the food, fellowship and celebrations that take place over both holidays.

Favorite Reason For Laughter: An inside joke with me and my sisters. Some of the stuff we laugh over is just as random and crazy as we are.

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Favorite Music Genre: Classic Jazz. Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday,  Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Carmen McRae, Doris Day, Julie London, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin. Need I say more?

Favorite Baby Names: Hannah Grace for a girl, and Michael Orlando for a boy.

Favorite Super Hero: Batman. He’s a human with no supernatural powers, but he’s still big and bad enough to hang with the best of them.

Favorite Fairy Tale: Rapunzel, with Rumpelstiltskin as a very close second.

Favorite phrase: God Is in Control. I have to tell myself this maybe 50 times a day, and sometimes that’s still not enough.

Favorite TV Series: I’m sorry. I cannot, CANNOT give just one answer to this…or two. Or three. Or four: Breaking Bad. Scandal. The Office. ER. Sons of Anarchy. House. Boardwalk Empire. Game of Thrones. Downton Abbey. House of Cards. With those choices, there’s no way I can pick just one winner.

Favorite Rom Com: My Best Friend’s Wedding. I’ll never hear the song “I Say a Little Prayer” the same way again- and I’m totally okay with that.

Favorite Vice: Extra dessert- even when I know I don’t really want/need it. Because, clearly that’s not the point.

Favorite Thing to Make in the Kitchen: Bread. I can still remember the first time I was able to make from scratch, yeast bread all on my own. I was so proud of myself. To this day, making delicious bread still just makes me feel great.

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Speaking of bread…

I did some reading up on this dish and apparently, Hawaiian bread actually has roots in Portugal as a sweet, egg based bread, then gradually migrated over to Hawaii where it became a trademark bread for both sweet and savory applications.Here in America, I generally see them in the well known Kings Hawaiian orange plastic wrapping. My grandma buys them a lot for holiday gatherings like Christmas or Thanksgiving. And because it’s something you can technically buy in the store, I of course am sharing a way that you can make it for yourself at home. Because that’s just how I roll.

I’ve had this recipe bookmarked on my Allrecipes.com account for a long time now. Because I make it apart of my responsibility to make sure that my family always has bread to eat on the side at dinner, I needed a new one to make, and decided that this one would be it.

It’s become another one of my Favorite Things.

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Hawaiian Bread

Recipe Courtesy of Allrecipes.com

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2 (.25 ounce) envelopes of active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour

 Directions

1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, beat together the yeast mixture, eggs, pineapple juice, 1/2 cup water, sugar, ginger, vanilla, and melted butter. Gradually stir in flour until a stiff batter is formed. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

3. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a well floured surface. Divide the dough into three equal pieces and form into round loaves. Place the loaves into three lightly greased round cake pans. Cover the loaves with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

4. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until bottom of a loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

 

Note: Bread is ‘done’ when it reaches an inner temperature of 190°-F so if you  have an instant read thermometer, it helps to be sure!

Triple Dipped Fried Chicken

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There are a select few places in my hometown to go if you want to get good fried chicken.

I hope I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes when I say this, but Kentucky Fried Chicken does not happen to be one of them. While I personally don’t think that their chicken is nasty per se, I don’t feel like it’s as good as it used to be in the early 90’s. Ever since KFC tried to ‘keep up’ with the other fast food chains and their ever evolving and growing menus and adding a bunch of other extraneous stuff, I feel like their chicken has suffered in quality. I understand that businesses want to keep up with the Joneses. However, when you’re good at one particular thing, sometimes you just need to stay in your lane, you know what I mean?

When I was a freshman in high school, my city got our first and only Popeyes Chicken- and you would have thought that the Pope had come to town. For two solid weeks, that place was absolutely packed to the max, with the line for the drive through going clear down the street. Not that it was unjustified- Popeyes chicken is  a major step up from KFC in terms of quality in general, and their biscuits are to die for. However, that furor died down and these days, while the chicken is still usually pretty good, there are some days that are largely hit and miss.

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There used to be two Ponderosas in my city as well, and while I’m not a huge fan of buffet food, I will say that their chicken wings/drumsticks were very delicious.However, they’ve both closed now so that point is kind of irrelevant at this point.

 We have a business down the street from my house that serves up chicken, gizzards and standard Southern sides. The food is pretty decent, however I was put off the last time that I went there this past winter and saw that the owner was so cheap that he didn’t turn the heat on and the employees were working in their coats just to stay warm. Not only does that strike me as unsanitary, but I was appalled at the idea of an owner that would force his employees to work in those conditions. Haven’t been back since, suffice to say.

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As decent as those other places are, everyone in my city knows that the best place to get fried chicken, is (rather ironically) a fish market. Inside, it’s a room of glass display cases filled with various fish to buy whole and fresh. In addition to the fish, they also for some reason have a whole array of Southern style food that they make to order in the back. The place is kinda small. And being a fish market, it stinks. However, it does serve the best chicken you’re going to get in the city. It’s so good, that nobody even calls it by it’s true name. It’s gained a catchy little nickname over the years instead: “Crack Chicken”.

Yep. I’m not kidding.

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Maybe I should have added a caveat to the beginning of this post: there a select few places to go in my city to get good  fried chicken if you’re going out to eat. If you want the best fried chicken period- well, not to blow my own horn or anything but…then you need to come to my house.

I make really, really REALLY good fried chicken, guys. It’s just the truth. I’m not a fan of how messy and greasy it can get sometimes, and it did take me a while to learn, but once I did, I really hit my stride.

Triple Dip Fried Chicken4

Good things come in 3’s, right? I don’t know anyone that would disagree with that when it comes to triple dipped fried chicken.The skin is the best part; the crispier the better. So with a triple dip, you better believe this chicken is the real deal when it comes to the crunch. I made this chicken for my family as part of an authentic Southern meal alongside these Hushpuppies. It was a hit. But c’mon: triple-dipped fried chicken? How can you go wrong there?

I’m taking these to Angie’s Fiesta Friday #30, party this week, co-hosted by Margy @La Petite Casserole . Hope to see you all there ;-)

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Triple Dipped Fried Chicken

Recipe Courtesy of Allrecipes.com

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups beer or water
  • 1 quart of vegetable oil, for frying
  • 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces

Directions

1. In one medium bowl, mix together 3 cups of flour, garlic salt, 1 tablespoon black pepper, smoked paprika and poultry seasoning.

2. In a separate bowl, stir together 1 1/3 cups flour, salt,1/4 teaspoon of pepper, egg yolks and beer. You may need to thin with additional beer if the batter is took thick.

3. Heat the oil in a deep-fryer to 350°.Moisten each piece of chicken with a little water, then dip in the dry mix. Shake off excess and dip in the wet mix, then dip in the dry mix once more.

4. Carefully place chicken pieces in the hot oil. Fry for 15 t0 18 minutes, or until well browned. Smaller pieces will not take as long. Large pieces may take longer. Remove and drain on paper towels before serving.

 

Flour’s Famous Sticky Buns

Sticky Buns2

When was the last time you had to do something that required a whole lot of effort?

I can think of several things in my life that I’ve had to do that really forced me to go the extra mile and push myself to the limits to make sure that I got the job done.

Example? Well, let’s take the ISP (Integrated Physical Sciences) course that I took when I was still an undergrad student at Michigan State. It was a requirement for every student to take one before they could graduate. By the time my fifth year came around (‘Super Senior Year’ is what we called them), I still had to get mine out of the way. Now before you get all judgmental on me for that, just hold your horses for one collard-pickin minute and let me explain:

I had a personal goal to keep a very good GPA throughout my undergrad career. This is not easy to do when you’re trying to juggle two jobs (at one point, I had three because I was crazy). Additionally, I’d witnessed one too many other people attempt to get all of their requirements out of the way when they first got to campus freshman year,then witness their GPAs plummet at the subjects they weren’t very good at. This wasn’t going to happen to me. Nope. That’s why, by the time my first year of college came around, I had my strategy all planned out.

Sticky Buns1

Whereas most freshmen took the  required classes that they thought they would struggle in the most first-I did the complete opposite. I took all the classes I knew that I would do very well in first. Turns out, this was a pretty smart idea because there’s a little secret that they neglect to tell Freshmen about concerning the GPA: it’s very VERY difficult to build back up once it goes down. You’re much better off starting off strong, then gradually allowing it to drop little by little rather than making it plummet right off rip then try to rebuild it back up. Which is exactly what I did. I waited until the last couple years of my undergrad years to take my math and sciences classes- which were still extremely challenging.

I ended up having to take one Math class 3 TIMES. (Don’t ask,it’s still too painful to talk about). My second math class is a blur to me-all I remember was that I did a lot of praying and drank more coffee than was healthy for me. And I swear that my Statistics class was specifically designed to shave off 5 years of my life.

The only reason I passed my Biology course was because I did every single extra credit assignment that my professor assigned- and I really, really REALLY didn’t like him. He was one of the most arrogant jerks I’d ever met and getting up at 8:00 am every Monday morning to listen to him lecture (literally)was just NOT  fun. He was one of those teachers that liked seeing students fail his tests because it made him feel smarter. Just thinking about him now is putting me in a bad mood.  I couldn’t stand him to the point where Hell would freeze over before I gave him the satisfaction of not passing his class. I definitely did.

Sticky Buns4

My Physics class was the last one that I had to take. It was a summer course, which meant it went much faster than normal classes during the Fall and Spring semesters.It was also an online class, meaning that we never even saw the professor besides the lectures videos he uploaded to  a website.Our assignments were submitted electronically and we all had to go into a lecture hall on campus to take 3 tests, and that was it. The cool thing about the tests were that the professor allowed us to have one double sided cheat sheet that we could use.

That was all I needed to hear.

Looking back, the effort I put into my cheat sheet was kinda ridiculous. I wrote as small and tiny as I possibly could to make sure I could fit every single piece of information on the paper. And just to make sure I didn’t waste time during the test looking for the colossal amounts of information i was writing down, I eveen color coded the cheat sheet according to specific topics. I wasn’t leaving ANYTHING to chance. I was GOING to pass that class.

And I did. Rather well, actually.

And my GPA when I graduated? 3.527…like a Boss.

Sticky Buns3

Like the cheat sheets from my ISP class, these sticky buns require a little bit of extra effort. But like the cheat sheets, they are also SOOOO worth the end result. My twin sister had been asking me to make them for weeks before I finally gave in and decided to give them a go. I’ve heard of this recipe because of the extreme popularity of the bakery, Flour that they originally come from that’s run by Joann Chang. People supposedly line up and wait hours for these sticky buns…and I can’t say that I blame them. The verdict from my family was unanimous; they’re fantastic. What really sets them apart from your typical sticky bun has gotta be the ‘goo’ that they’re topped with. It’s thick and gooey, but not overly sweet. The dough is what requires the extra mile, as it’s supposed to set up overnight in the fridge, but like I said, you’re not going to regret it. It’s golden, buttery and tender brioche at its best.

I’m taking these sticky buns to the Fiesta Friday #29 hosted this week by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and cohosted by Jhuls and Selma.  I certainly hope you’ll be there to join us at the party to get one….because these babies just aren’t gonna last that long.

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Flour’s Famous Sticky Buns

Recipe Courtesy of Joann Chang

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION (PAGE 1, PAGE 2, PAGE 3)

Ingredients

Goo

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks;)unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Basic Brioche Dough, recipe follows
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Brioche Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups (350 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
  • 2 1/4 cups (340 grams) bread flour
  • 1 1/2 packages (3 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast or 1-ounce fresh cake yeast
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 3/8 cups (2 3/4 sticks;) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 10 to 12 pieces

Directions

1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar & cook, stirring, to combine (it may look separated, that’s ok).

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the honey, cream, water, &salt. Strain to remove any undissolved lumps of brown sugar. Let cool for about 30 minutes, or until cooled to room temperature. You should have about 3 cups. (The mixture can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)

3. Divide the dough in half. Use half for this recipe and reserve the other half for another use. On a floured work surface, roll out the brioche into rectangle about 12 by 16 inches and 1/4-inch thick. It will have the consistency of cold, damp Play-Doh and should be fairly easy to roll. Position the rectangle so a short side is facing you.

4. In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and half of the pecans. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Starting from the short side farthest from you and working your way down, roll up the rectangle like a jelly roll. Try to roll tightly, so you have a nice round spiral. Trim off about 1/4- inch from each end of the roll to make them even.

5. Use a bench scraper or a chef’s knife to cut the roll into 8 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2-inches wide. (At this point, the unbaked buns can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 week. When ready to bake, thaw them, still wrapped, in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, then proceed as directed.)

6. Pour the goo into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, covering the bottom evenly. Sprinkle the remaining pecans evenly over the surface. Arrange the buns, evenly spaced, in the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm spot to proof until the dough is puffy, pillowy, and soft and the buns are touching-almost tripled in size, about 2 hours.

7. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat to 350 degrees F. Bake until golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool in the dish on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes. One at a time, invert the buns onto a serving platter, and spoon any extra goo and pecans from the bottom of the dish over the top. The buns are best served warm or within 4 hours of baking. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day, and then warmed in a 325 degree F oven for 10 to 12 minutes before serving.

Brioche Dough:

8. Using a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the all-purpose flour, bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water, and 5 of the eggs. Beat on low speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until all the ingredients are combined. Stop the mixer, as needed, to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all the flour is incorporated into the wet ingredients. Once the dough has come together, beat on low speed for another 3 to 4 minutes. The dough will be very stiff and seem quite dry.

9. With the mixer on low speed, add the butter, 1 piece at a time, mixing after each addition until it disappears into the dough. Continue mixing on low speed for about 10 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. It is important for all the butter to be thoroughly mixed into the dough. If necessary, stop the mixer occasionally and break up the dough with your hands to help mix in the butter.

10. Once the butter is completely incorporated, turn up the speed to medium and beat until the dough becomes sticky, soft, and somewhat shiny, another 15 minutes. It will take some time to come together. It will look shaggy and questionable at the start and then eventually it will turn smooth and silky. Turn the speed to medium-high and beat for about 1 minute. You should hear the dough make a slap-slap-slap sound as it hits the sides of the bowl. Test the dough by pulling at it; it should stretch a bit and have a little give. If it seems wet and loose and more like a batter than a dough, add a few tablespoons of flour and mix until it comes together. If it breaks off into pieces when you pull at it, continue to mix on medium speed for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until it develops more strength and stretches when you grab it. It is ready when you can gather it all together and pick it up in 1 piece.

11. Put the dough in a large bowl or plastic container and cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the surface of the dough. Let the dough proof (that is, grow and develop flavor) in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or up to overnight At this point you can freeze the dough in an airtight container for up to 1 week.