The World is our Oyster

The World is our Oyster

As we grow older,
we sometimes wish
we were that beautiful young girl or boy we see
who looks so “effortlessly” attractive
in their skinny jeans and tank top
with skin that is tight and glowing
and hair that is long and soft and flowing.
They appear so confident and self-assured.
The world is their oyster.

When we are young,
we often can’t wait
to be those older girls or boys
who are able to choose what they do
and where they go
and make important decisions
and be independent.
They appear so confident and self-assured.
The world is their oyster.

When we are down or sad
we often think
everyone else
has it better
or easier
or is happier
or is smarter
They appear so confident and self-assured.
The world is their oyster.

But you know what?

Nothing is really quite like it seems.

Let’s try to own and like
whoever we are
at whatever stage
of life we are at.
Let’s try not to compare
our insides
to others’ outsides.
We are all kind of a mess.
The world is our oyster.

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Salted Dark Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Salted Dark Chocolate Crinkle Cookies.

Oh My Stars!

These fudgy, brownie-like, dark chocolate, chewy, but crispy heavenly bites may just have you seeing stars!

I saw a photo of these stop-me-in-my-tracks, make-me-wanna-bake, longing-to-get-in-my-belly cookies on ButterandBrioche, but alas the recipe was in metric measurements.

Thank goodness for Convert-me.com!

I’m not quite sure what the addition of ground coffee scientifically does to these, but I do know coffee somehow enhances the true flavor of coffee.

And the sprinkling of flaked sea salt that is just enough to balance the fudgy, chocolately amazingness…. well – all I can say is – you really want to try these!

Here is how I made them after converting:

Salted Dark Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 22-24 oz high quality dark chocolate (I like Moser Roth 70% Dark Chocolate, which I find at Aldi)
  • 8 Tbsp butter
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 2 Tbsp instant or fresh ground coffee
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • Flaked sea salt (Maldon is my fave!)

Directions:

Melt chocolate and butter in microwavable bowl for 1 minute on high.  Stir.  Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring, until melted and blended.  Cool.

Mix brown sugar and eggs with electric mixer until thick and doubled in volume, about 4 minutes.  Add the melted and slightly cooled chocolate.  Mix until well incorporated.

Add flour, coffee, baking powder, and salt, and mix just until combined.  Add water, and mix until combined.

Refrigerate the fluid batter for 15-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Scoop batter with a cookie scoop onto baking stone or parchment lined baking sheet.  Once sheet is full, tap lightly 2-3 times on counter to slightly flatten cookie dough.  Sprinkle with a little flaked salt.

Bake for approximately 11 minutes.  Open oven and tap sheet lightly to flatten a bit.  Return to oven for 2 more minutes.  Repeat until cookies are firm around the edges and set in the middle with plenty of crinkles.

Cool for at least 10 minutes on baking stone or cookie sheet before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Dark Sweet Cherry Crumb Cake

Dark Sweet Cherry Crumb Cake.

I am a complete sucker for crumb cake.  It is most likely my Achilles heel.  I will say I don’t want a piece but will sliver slices away and pick off crumb topping until the whole cake somehow seems to disappear.

When I had a huge bag of sweet dark cherries lingering in the refrigerator one Sunday a week or so ago and the desire to bake something, I knew I found “IT” when I came across this recipe I slightly tweaked from Laura at Tutti Dolce who described the cake like this:

The best kind of cherry crumb cake is a plush buttermilk cake, scented with almond and vanilla, and topped with a scattering of sweet dark cherries. Piled high with buttery crumbs and baked until beautifully golden, this is the cherry cake your summer needs.

Laura had me at “plush!”

Here is this divine crumb cake recipe.  This IS the cake of your summer needs!

Dark Sweet Cherry Crumb Cake

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 10 Tbsp butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk plus 1 Tbsp vinegar let set for 5 min)
  • 1 tsp pure almond extract
  • 1tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 lbs dark sweet cherries, pitted

Crumb Topping:

  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp pure almond extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour 10 in. springform pan.

Prepare crumb topping by combining flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl.  Add melted butter and extract and toss with a spoon or your fingers until crumbly.

Prepare cake batter by beating butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Add baking soda and salt.  Combine buttermilk and extracts.  Then alternately add buttermilk and flour in three additions just until incorporated.

Pour batter into prepared springform pan.  Top with an even layer of pitted cherries, pressing lightly into batter.  Sprinkle with crumb topping.

Bake 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool 15 mins. in pan.  Remove springform side, and cool completely.  

Enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Roasted Spiral Butternut Squash “Noodles” with Garlic, Rosemary & Browned Butter

Roasted Spiral Butternut Squash “Noodles” with Garlic, Rosemary, and Browned Butter.

O. M. G!

Where have you been all my life spiralized butternut squash?

Many of us have been spiralizing our zucchini squash into beautiful noodles, but am I one of the last on the bandwagon for spiralized butternut squash??!!

So simple…
So quick…
So DELICIOUS!!!

I happened to come across a package of fresh spiral-cut butternut squash at my local Aldi Grocery Store recently.

I thought about pan frying it in butter and garlic, but then chose to roast it like I typically do with cut butternut squash, and WOWZIE PaZOWzie was I pleased!
And so was hubby!

What a quick, easy, delicious, and nutritous treat!

Here is the super simple, yet amazingly delicious way I prepared it.

Roasted Spiral Butternut Squash with Garlic, Rosemary, and Browned Butter

Ingredients:

  • 1 10-oz package of prepared spiral cut butternut squash “noodles” (or spiral cut your own)
  • 2 Tbsp. salted butter, browned
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large sprig fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. flaked sea salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Brown butter in skillet.  Watch closely so it doesn’t burn.  Once browned, remove from heat and stir in garlic.

Spread spiral-cut butternut squash “noodles” onto a stoneware bar pan or your favorite shallow baking pan.

Sprinkle with salt.  Drizzle with garlic-enhanced browned butter.  Top with minced rosemary.  Toss to coat all.

Roast for 7-9 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Gluten-Free (Flourless) Banana Oatmeal Bread

Gluten-Free (Flourless) Banana Oatmeal Bread.

When you have a bunch of bananas that ripen before you eat them – and you know nobody will eat them – they are perfect for baking.

I have a really yummy banana bread recipe, but it is not the “healthiest.”  I decided I wanted to make something with less (or no) sugar, and maybe no flour either.

I was excited when I found this super-easy and oh so yummy recipe at The Baker Mama.

It’s been very hot here, so I baked this early on a Sunday morning.  I made one loaf for my youngest son and his wife (my son loves banana bread and my daughter-in-law likes to eat healthy and gluten-free if possible) and one loaf for hubby and me.

My son mentioned that if I added some protein powder to the recipe, it would be the perfect breakfast.  I will have to try that next time.

But how simple is this recipe with five healthy, wholesome ingredients?!

Hope you will give it a try.

Gluten Free Banana Oatmeal Bread

Ingredients:

3 ripe bananas
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2  eggs
¼ cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp baking soda

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease 9×5-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth and well combined. Pour into prepared loaf pan.
Garnish the top of the batter with thinly sliced bananas or pecans or walnuts, if desired).

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Do not overbake or bread will be dry tasting.

Let loaf cool completely in pan. Store in a Ziploc bag in the refrigerator,

Enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Old-Fashioned Classic Stuffed Peppers

Old-Fashioned Classic Stuffed Peppers.

People stuff peppers with a lot of different things and prepare them many different ways.

But there is one classic, old-fashioned way I sometimes crave.
The way Grandma used to make them.

Simple.
Hearty.
Lots of tomato sauce.
And served with a side of mashed pototoes.

Last Sunday, I made them for dinner.

Here is my recipe – like Grandma made.

Old-Fashioned Classic Stuffed Peppers

  • Servings: 4 stuffed peppers
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 4 large red or green peppers (best if you use the one with 4 lobes – or bumps – on the bottom as opposed to those with 3, so they stand nicer)
  • 1 lb. “Meatloaf Mix” (a mixture of ground beef, pork, and lamb)
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 large can tomato sauce
  • 1 large can condensed tomato soup
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine ground meat, cooked rice, onion, salt, and pepper.  Combine with your hands until evenly incorporated.

In another large mixing bowl, combine tomato sauce, tomato soup, and water.  Whisk until evenly incorporated.

Add 1 cup of sauce to meat mixture.  Combine well.

Cut tops from peppers and remove seeds.  Stand pepper “cups” in a deep roasting pan.  Stuff peppers with handfuls of meat packed and mounded.  Pour remaining sauce over all.

Cover and roast peppers for 1 – 1 1/2 hours until meat is cooked, sauce reduces, and peppers have softened.

Serve with mashed pototoes and ladle additional sauce over all.

Enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Baking Lady Locks Cookies

Baking Lady Locks Cookies

We’ve talked about it before…. the Pittsburgh Wedding Cookie Table.

As we say around here, “It’s a ‘Burgh Thing.”

And no respectable wedding cookie table would be without Lady Locks.

As much as I love baking cookies, I have never truly mastered the esteemed Lady Lock.

But one of my best buddies has….

She baked them for my first son’s wedding, and she baked them for my second son’s wedding.  So when I offered to help bake some cookies for my oldest daughter-in-law’s sister’s upcoming wedding, I asked Tracy if I could pay her to bake some Lady Locks.

Her reply…

“How about I teach you?”

When I told my daughter-in-law we were going to make them this past Sunday, she was so excited.  She had been googling the recipe to give them a try, but was a bit hesitant to tackle these, so she wanted to join in the lady lock baking lesson too.

Now my grandma made these every year for Christmas and for special occassions like family weddings.  I tried her cryptic recipe a few times years ago, but they never came out quite right.  At one point in time I had her special lady lock pins, but somehow they are nowhere to be found.  (I likely tossed them out of frustration after trying several times!)

Fortunately, Tracy still has her grandma’s, which were handed down to her mom and then her.  I found a local store in the Strip District of Pittsburgh, In the Kitchen, that carries them and sells them online for anyone interested in purchasing (which I did).  It’s important you get the correct kind.  Expert old-time bakers were able to make these on clothespins (and some people still call them clothespin cookies), but I can’t even imagine!

Baking these are not for the light of heart or spirit.  Though they are made from just a few simple ingredients you likely have in your pantry, these tasty little buggers are a bit tedious to make.  (Especially when you double the recipe and have a 1-1/2 year-old helping!)

Tracy generously allowed me to share her Mom’s recipe here, which was a COMPLETE success!  (Probably because she did most of the hard work….. after all…. my granddaughter did need to take a few breaks to swing and play in the pool and eat lunch and join Pap Pap for a tractor ride during the 5-hour bake-a-thon!).  Colleen, her mommy, was a trooper rolling and tapping and filling the whole time – even while 8 3/4 months pregnant (this girl never ceases to amaze me!).

We filled half of our 200 lady locks with pink-tinted vanilla filling and the other half with white almond-flavored filling.  They both are melt-in-your-mouth divine.

Here is the recipe.  The best ever, full-proof success lady locks recipe.  Thanks Tracy!

Lady Locks Cookies

  • Servings: approximately 100
  • Print

Cookie Shell Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 lb butter
  • 1 cup water

Filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups Crisco
  • 3 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar
  • 3/4 cup canned Evaporated Milk
  • 4 1/2 Tbsp. flour
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Mix flour and butter with pastry blender like when making pie crust to form crumbly mixture.  Stir in water until dough forms.  Shape dough into 2 balls, cover with saran wrap, and refrigerate for one hour.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare the Lady Locks Pins by rubbing your hands with Crisco and then rolling the pins in your hands to grease them.  (You only have to do this for the first batch – they will be greased enough after that from each subsequent baking.)

Roll out dough to 1/8″ thick on floured surface.  Cut dough into 2″ x 1-1/2″ rectangles.  Wrap each rectangle of dough around Lady Locks Pin pinching edges well to seal.  To do this is a bit tricky.  You must pinch the dough together, then roll it in your hands and/or on a lightly flour-dusted counter (or both!) to get them smooth and even. Then take a butter knife and cut through the center of the dough on the pin to create two evenly-sized pieces – pushing  them apart about 1/8″.  (You will get two cookies from each pin).

Fill a cookie tray or baking stone with dough-wrapped pins about 1/4 inch apart.  Bake approximately 10 minutes until just lightly browned.

When they come out of the oven, you can allow them to cool a minute or so, then you need to tap the ends of the pin on the counter to loosen the baked dough and slide off the pin on the narrowest tapered side.  (It’s a bit like playing hot potato, but necessary to remove the shells from the pins.  Tracy says if you leave them cool too long on the pin, the will likely stick to them and break in the process of removing.)

Once you have baked all of your shells, and they have cooled, prepare the filling.

With an electric mixer, beat the Crisco.  Add 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar, and beat again.  Add 1/4 cup canned milk, and beat again.  Add flour.   Beat again.  Add salt.     Beat again.  Add 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar.  Beat again.  Add 1/2 cup canned milk.  Beat again.  Add vanilla (or almond extract).  Beat again.  If you are going to tint your filling, add food color, and beat one final time until incorporated.

Using a pastry tube or decorator with small tip, fill shells with filling.

These cookies freeze well, and actually taste phenomenal straight out of the freezer.

Do you have another favorite Lady Locks recipe?  I’d love to hear how you make them.

Enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Berry Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Dressing

Berry Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Dressing.

Want to really make a statement and add a kick to your next fruit salad?

Mix strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and red raspberries in a bowl.

Add the zest and juice of one ripe lime and drizzle with 2-3 Tbsp of honey.

Stir berry gently, and enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Sour Cream Pecan Coffee Cake

Sour Cream Pecan Coffee Cake.

I’ve been meaning to share this recipe for quite some time.  It is my most favorite coffee cake recipe to date.

I can pass on a brownie or a chocolate chip cookie, but put a piece of coffee cake in front of me………. and forget it!  I can’t resist.

This recipe was shared with me from a super sweet guy I used to work with.   His aunt makes it for him every year for his birthday – at his request – and he was always kind enough to bring it to the office to share.

The recipe card Steve copied to share with me is dated March, 1969.  Almost as old as me!

It’s a classic, and it’s definitely a keeper!

The crunchy ribbon of cinnamony pecans that runs through the middle of this buttery, tender cake seals the deal!

Here is the recipe Steve shared with me that I slightly adjusted:

Sour Cream Pecan Coffee Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup salted butter, softened (2 sticks)
  • 2 cups + 4 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease and flour 9″ tube pan.

Cream butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Fold in vanilla and sour cream.  Fold in baking powder, salt, and flour.

Combine remaining 4 Tbsp sugar, with chopped pecans and cinnamon.

Place half of batter in tube pan.  Sprinkle with nut mixture.  Top with remaining batter.

Bake 50-60 minutes.

Enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

 

Baked Brie with Candied Bacon

Baked Brie with Candied Bacon.

Need I say more?

Gooey, buttery, melted baked brie smothered with smokey bacon candied with brown sugar and maple syrup and balanced out with tangy rice vinegar, coarse black pepper and a few shakes of hot sauce.

This heavenly appetizer recipe really puts the crack in cracker.

If you are looking for the next must-have appetizer to make or take to a picnic or party, look no further.  I can pretty much guarantee this will be a winner! It sure was with my family this past weekend.

Here is how I made it, adapted from a recipe found here.

Baked Brie with Candied Bacon

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz wheel of brie cheese
  • 8 slices thick bacon, diced
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 heaping Tbsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 4-5 drops Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (or your fave)
  • 1 box water crackers (or your fave)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook diced bacon in a hot skillet until just crispy.

While bacon is cooking, stir together brown sugar, maple syrup, rice vinegar, black pepper and hot sauce in a small bowl.

Drain grease from bacon, and add sauce.  Simmer for 3-4 minutes until thick and bubbly.

Place brie in small stoneware casserole or baking pan.  Top with candied bacon.  Bake 10 minutes or until brie is warm and gooey inside.

Allow to rest for 10 minutes or so.  Serve with water crackers or your favorite cracker.

Enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi