Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mississippi Mud Brownies

This is a new brownie recipe that I tried from Southern Living, and I'm loving it! There are three layers of yumminess in these treats, but these brownies are so easy to make. They start with a basic brownie layer, then on top of that a marshmallow and pecan layer, and they are topped off with a creamy chocolate frosting. This recipe takes brownies to a whole new level!


Recipe from Southern Living


Mississippi Mud Brownies

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
1 (4 ounce) unsweetened chocolate baking bar, chopped
3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
3 cups miniature marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spread pecans in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant. Set aside.
Prepare a 9 x 13-inch baking pan by greasing or by spraying with cooking spray. In a large microwave safe bowl, combine chocolate and butter. Microwave on HIGH 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals. Add sugar and eggs, stirring until well blended. Stir in flour. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Sprinkle top of warm brownies with marshmallows and toasted pecans. Prepare Chocolate Frosting. Pour over marshmallows and pecans; spread to edges. Let cool 1 hour on a wire rack. Cut into squares.

Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup milk
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 (16 ounce) package powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, combine the butter, milk, and cocoa. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 4 to 5 minutes or until butter melts. Remove from heat and beat in powdered sugar and vanilla at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.


Marshmallows, pecans, and unsweetened chocolate are some of the ingredients that make these brownies so yummy. I used 4 unsweetened squares instead of a bar because I already had these in my pantry.


Toasting the pecans makes them even more flavorful.


Spread the batter in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.


Bake for 25 - 30 minutes.


Sprinkle the brownies with the marshmallows and pecans.


Spread the warm chocolate frosting over the marshmallow and pecans.


Let the brownies cool for 1 hour before cutting into squares.


These are some amazing brownies!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Raisin, Cinnamon, and Nut Bread

This recipe is for a delicious bread that I learned to make when I attended the Viking Cooking School back in the spring of this year. We baked a variety of breads in the class, and I loved them all, but this one is an especially tasty treat. These loaves slice well and make a great breakfast toast.



Recipe adapted from Beard on Bread

Print Recipe

Raisin, Cinnamon, and Nut Bread

1/2 cup warm water (100 degrees to 115 degrees, approximately)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon instant dry yeast
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 3/4 cups warm milk (heat in microwave)
5 to 6 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup raisins, soaked in brandy (I used white grape juice)
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon cinnamon
freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
melted butter

In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine the warm water, honey, and yeast; allow to proof. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the milk and butter, then add the proofed yeast mixture. In a separate bowl, start with 5 cups of flour (reserve the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour) and add the salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg; whisk to combine. Add 1 cup of the flour mixture to the yeast mixture at a time, beating well with the paddle attachment after each addition. When the dough begins to stick to the paddle, change to the dough hook. Add the nuts and raisins (drain liquid from raisins before adding), and continue beating until the dough clings to the hook and starts to clean the bowl, adding the reserved flour a little at a time, if needed.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand until the dough is soft and elastic. The dough should spring back when lightly pressed with your finger. Shape the dough into a ball and place into a greased bowl, turning the dough to coat on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled.

Punch the dough down and divide in half for 2 large loaves. (Or you can make 4 small loaves.) Place into two well greased 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans, and allow to rise until doubled, about one hour. Bake loaves in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 25 to 35 minutes. Brush the loaves with melted butter when they are removed from the oven for a tender crust. Cool before slicing.





Check the temperature of the water before adding the yeast!


The water, honey, and yeast get all bubbly and creamy when proofed.


The original recipe indicated that the raisins should be soaked in Brandy. I didn't have Brandy and didn't want to buy a bottle just for this recipe, so I checked on substitutions. Gourmet Sleuth had a great list of substitutions, and white grape juice was one of the recommendations to use in place of Brandy.
Get the raisins started soaking first before starting the bread, and be sure to drain the liquid before adding the raisins to the dough.


The nutmeg is optional, but I think it's mandatory!


Form the dough into a ball and place it into a greased bowl to rise.


When it has doubled in size, punch it down and divide it into loaves.


Place the dough into greased loaf pans for the second rise.


When the dough has doubled again, bake at 400 degrees for 25 - 35 minutes.


Brush the top of the loaves with melted butter for a tender crust.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Keeping My Socks On

My feet have been a high priority in my life recently. They have carried me around all these years, and now they are asking for a little pampering. Actually, they are DEMANDING that I pay attention to them and give them the respect they deserve. A case of plantar fasciitis in both feet has totally changed my footwear this summer.


I have several pairs of shoes similar to these that give support to my limping, painful feet, but this type of shoe requires a low cut sock. I have bought some well-known brands of socks to wear with these shoes, but I have been disappointed that they ended up in a wad somewhere down underneath my foot. 

My happy news is that I finally found a brand of socks that STAY ON MY FEET. This may not seem like a big deal, but indeed it is to me! This sock frustration has been huge to me. I have a big pile of those wadded, useless socks that won't stay put on my feet.


These wonderful socks that I found are by Vera Wang, and I bought them at Kohl's. 


They come in black, white, and nude.


No matter which shoes I'm wearing, they stay put!


I don't have to worry about them slipping off and sliding down like all the other brands have done.


This brand has a band of silicone on the inside of the heel that secures the sock so there is no slipping. Impressive! Thank you Vera Wang!

Now I have a big pile of useless socks to deal with. Fortunately for me, my friend Anne at Domesblissity is one step ahead of me. She loves Pinterest, and has just recently posted 44 Ways to Use Old Socks. Surely there's an idea in there somewhere for me and my stack of sock rejects. Some lucky person may just get a sock craft from me for Christmas this year!



The opinions stated in this post are entirely my own. I have no relationship with Vera Wang or Kohl's and have received no compensation from them.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mission Organization: Week 34 - What a Difference a Fold Makes

It seems that the more I work on organizing my house the more I find that needs improvement. I thought I was doing pretty well with the fundamentals, such as sorting and grouping like items and eliminating clutter, but then I found that I needed a refresher course in basic "folding".

As you can see my dresser drawers are just a little over stuffed. This one holds T-shirts, and I know that I have mentioned before that I don't wear a lot of T-shirts, but I do have several that I have collected from here and there. Not long ago I used one of my T-shirts to make a tote bag and some day I think it would be fun to make a quilt from T-shirts, but in the meantime, they are stuffed in my dresser drawer.



I'm always looking out for a more efficient way of doing things around the house, and I think Darkroom and Dearly definitely has a better way of organizing dresser drawers. After seeing how much space can be saved by folding and storing shirts in a different way, I got busy and reorganized my T-shirt drawer.



Here's the simple fold that makes the shirt fit into the drawer in a better way:

1. Lay the shirt out flat with the logo facing up.



2. Fold in half lengthwise, with the logo still facing out.




3. Fold the sleeves in.


4. Fold the shirt in half by folding the bottom half up, with the logo still showing


5. Then fold it in half again. This will be the last fold you will need if your drawers are DEEP, but my dresser drawers are shallow.


6. I folded the shirt one more time, with the logo still showing, then just stacked all the shirts side by side in the drawer.




The drawer would barely close when the shirts were folded and stuffed in the drawer in this way.



After the shirts were refolded and stacked in the drawer, there was room to spare! Wow, what a difference a fold makes!


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

White Chocolate Pie (Sugar Free)

Can I just say that I have this "friend" . . . she loves dessert of all kinds, and on top of that she loves to bake, so there is always a ready supply of goodies at her house to satisfy her sweet tooth. But the calories, oh my, the calories! I, I mean she has been trying to watch those calories and has managed to lose about 10 pounds, but she wants to lose 10 more. To help her on her way I have whipped up this super easy White Chocolate Pie, and it is a sugar-free version!





White Chocolate Pie (Sugar Free)

3 cups low fat milk (1% or 2%)
2 boxes Sugar Free instant White Chocolate pudding mix (1 ounce each)
1 (8 ounce) container Sugar Free Cool Whip
2 prepared reduced fat graham cracker pie crusts
Fresh strawberries or other fruit (optional)

In a large bowl, combine the pudding mix with the milk; mix until smooth. Blend the Cool Whip into the pudding mixture. Divide the filling between the two crusts; chill for several hours until firm. If desired may be served by topping with sliced strawberries or other fruit sweetened with Splenda or sweetener of choice.



Sugar Free White Chocolate instant pudding mix and Sugar Free Cool Whip are used in this this recipe.


The Reduced Fat graham crust also helps to lower the calorie count in this pie.


To make the pie filling, mix the milk and pudding mix, then blend in the Cool Whip. So easy!


Pour the filling in the prepared crust and chill.


And for a double delight, this recipe makes two pies.


I know my "friend" is going to love this delicious White Chocolate Pie!



Monday, August 20, 2012

Slapped in the Face by a Free Soft Drink

I love a good bargain. I love shopping the sales and finding just what I want at a reduced price. When shopping online I'll even add that one more item to my total just to get free shipping, but now I've got a bargain that I didn't bargain for.



After church on Sunday, I met some of my family at Wendy's for lunch. Wendy's is one of the fast food chains that I like because they have options on the menu that I can order without going over my calorie allotment for the day in one meal.

But on Sunday, when I walked up to the counter to order my meager meal, something strange happened. I gave the order taker my sandwich and drink order and waited for the grand total . . . $1.94 the young lady said sweetly. I looked at her blankly as I handed her a twenty. She was still smiling as she counted back my change. I stepped aside to wait as my mother ordered her meal. The same young lady announced my mother's grand total, $1.94.

That's when the realization hit me square in the face - I had just been served with a FREE senior citizen soft drink!

I thought I had done a nice job coloring "those few" gray hairs so that they weren't visible, and my face had been spackled and smoothed by a whole stack of cosmetics just that morning.

 

What was it that had caused the order taker to automatically size me up as a senior citizen in one quick glance? I thought it over as I sipped the free drink.

It had to be the shoes. My poor feet had begged me to give up any kind of shoes that even remotely resembled stylish. They only wanted cushy comfort these days.


Even my beloved cork wedges were now too painful to wear.


Now my feet begged for soft orthopedic plain Mary Janes. At this stage of my life my feet just say 'no' to heels, wedges, and sandals. So my secret is out, there is no hiding one's shoes. If the order girl at Wendy's can spot them, then I'm sure the whole world can see them. There's not a lot I can do about the situation. I won't torture my feet in the name of vanity, but apparently comfortable shoes = OLD.

So I'll continue to color my hair, spackle my face, and put my best, although painful and unstylish, foot forward.

Hmm . . . I wonder if Subway has a senior citizen special?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Protein Pancakes

I have several pancake recipes that I rely on for different purposes, but this recipe fits into the great all-around category. Not only are they easy to make, these pancakes are tasty, protein-rich, and low calorie. What a great breakfast to make for the kids before sending them off to school!


Recipe adapted from My Kitchen Adventures


Protein Pancakes

1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup low fat (2%) cottage cheese
1/2 cup Egg Beaters or 3 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of salt
Water (Optional - a little water can be used to thin the batter if desired.)

In a blender, combine oats, cottage cheese, egg whites, vanilla extract, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Process until batter is smooth; then let rest for 5 minutes (this will make the pancakes fluffier). Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium/high heat. Pour batter into the heated skillet, cook until bubbles form on top and edges begin to look dry, then flip and cook other side. Repeat with remaining batter. Makes four 6-inch diameter pancakes with a calorie count of 280 for all 4 pancakes. Recipe can be doubled or tripled for more servings.



The ingredients - old fashioned oats, cottage cheese, egg whites or Egg Beaters, vanilla extract, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.




Cook the pancakes until they are golden brown on both sides.


Serve with butter, syrup, or any way you like them. My granddaughter Ginger likes fruit and whipped topping on hers!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mission Organization: Week 33 - Removing the Bug Collection From My Car

I know it's back to school time and students in classrooms all over will be collecting insects for their science projects this fall. I've had my own little science project going - a bug collection - on the front of my car! I put a lot of miles on my car visiting family out of town, and I always come home with an amazing collection of insects attached to my ride.


These bugs are tightly attached, as in dead and dried.


I usually take my car through the automatic car wash, but for all its sudsing and wiping and blow drying, it just never removes all these dried up critters.

There are several commercial products available that are made to remove the bugs, but I have never had great success with the ones I have tried, and sometimes I do get tired of buying just one more product to clutter up the storage area.

In looking for a solution for a product to remove the bugs from my car, I didn't have to look far.


The answer was as close as the laundry room and as simple as a box of fabric softener dryer sheets. Sounds too easy and too good to be true, but believe me these things really work!


To get that infestation of bugs off my car, all I did was to wet the car, then put some warm water in a bucket. I wet the dryer sheet in the warm water and wiped the bugs.



This was after the first few swipes! The bugs came right off; it's the most amazing thing!


A few more wipes and the bugs are gone!


I used 3 sheets to clean the bugs off this part of the car, and there were LOTS of bugs! I don't know exactly how it works, but I'm guessing it's the fabric softener that does the trick. All I'm sure of is that I no longer have a bug collection on the front of my car, and it was super easy!