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!


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.


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!


White Chocolate Pie (Sugar Free)

Because I love dessert of all kinds, plus I love to bake, there is always a ready supply of goodies at my house to satisfy my sweet tooth. But the calories, oh my, the calories. This recipe is one that I don't have to feel guilty about making because it's a sugar free dessert. Everyone at my house loves this pie, and I don't think they can tell the difference between this and a high calorie creation.

This pie is a cool summer dessert, and it makes a great take-along for a pot luck.

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.

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

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



Protein Pancakes

I have several pancake recipes I rely on for different purposes. This recipe doesn't fit any one particular category, but it's an all-around healthier version of a pancake. These pancakes are not only easy to make, they are tasty, protein-rich, and low calorie. This would be the perfect breakfast to make for the kids before sending them off to school.

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. Serve with butter and syrup or as desired.

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



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!


Hawaiian Crock Pot Chicken

I'm always on the lookout for new crock pot recipes, and this one for Hawaiian Chicken is a new one that I tried and added to my collection. The version of the recipe that I made was quite delicious, but I used some different items other than those listed in the original recipe. One of the items specified was a particular item from Target, and I do love Target, but the nearest one is 20 miles away, so I don't get to do my routine shopping there.

Print Recipe

Hawaiian Crock Pot Chicken

4 - 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used 10 breast tenderloins)
1 (15.5 ounce) can crushed pineapple
1 (16.5 ounce) bottle Archer Farms Hawaiian style barbecue sauce (found at Target)

Spray crock pot with cooking spray. Place chicken in crock pot, pour pineapple on top of chicken, then pour sauce over all. Cook on LOW for 6 hours.

The ingredients I used varied slightly from the original recipe. I chose breast tenderloins instead of the larger breast portions, and my Hawaiian sauce was a different brand.

This recipe goes together in about 2 seconds! Just throw the chicken in the crock pot and pour the pineapple and the barbecue sauce over the top. 

I really love any food that cooks itself!


Holy Mackerel!

Our family recently traveled on vacation to Orange Beach, Alabama. We were able to get all three of our children and their spouses, as well as the three grandchildren together in one place for a whole week. We stayed at beautiful Turquoise Place on the beach, and enjoyed the pleasant temperatures there after our summer heat and drought at home. On one of the days this little fishing party set sail for some gulf fishing.

Their luck was quite good at catching mackerel as you can see in this photo.

My son Daniel will attempt most any cooking challenge, so he took over the chef's duties when it came time to prepare the mackerel for dinner. He used two different methods to cook the mackerel and both were excellent. Some of the fish was dipped in a tempura batter that Daniel made with flour, cornmeal, garlic, soy sauce, and freshly grated ginger, then deep fried - super yummy! He also cooked up some by pan frying in butter, then he made a sauce to pour over the fish using the butter, minced garlic and red wine vinegar - also wonderful! We consumed all the fish we could eat, but with the many pounds that our fishermen caught, a large quantity remained to be cooked.

We also tickled our taste buds at some of the local Orange Beach restaurants. One of the places we visited was Calapso Joe's Caribbean Grill. I had a great Cuban Pork Sandwich with the trimmings and my husband dined on the Rib Eye Steak and Mashed Potatoes. While we were waiting on our orders, the grandchildren were invited to watch the crab races.

Cosmos was another restaurant worth mentioning that we visited on this trip. Fortunately, we arrived early enough that our wait wasn't too long, but it filled up quickly. I had a salmon salad that was topped with julienned apricots, and it was not your ordinary salmon salad. My husband had his usual rib eye steak, and the grandchildren were happy to find edamame and sushi on this menu.

But then, what to do with all that mackerel still left in the refrigerator? No one was now in the mood to eat it, and we were told by the men who dressed it that it did not hold up well when frozen. It seemed like there might be no choice but to trash it, when Daniel came up with the idea to cure it. Apparently curing fish is not a new process and has been done successfully for hundreds of years, but this was to be my first experience with "the cure." The recipe that I used has been modified slightly from the original.

Print Recipe

Gravad Mackerel
2 pounds mackerel fillets
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
5 tablespoons finely chopped dill

In a bowl, combine sugar, salt, caraway seeds, and dill; mix well. Sprinkle the bottom of a large dish with a handful of the mixture. Place a layer of the fish in the dish, then sprinkle with more of the sugar mixture; repeat layers until all fish has been covered in the cure. Cover the dish and place in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. Serve by slicing thinly.

Sugar, salt, caraway seeds, and dill make up the cure. Fresh dill would be nice, but being away from home I used what I had with me.

Spread a layer of the mixture in the bottom of a large dish.

Place a layer of mackerel fillets on top of the cure.

Sprinkle the fish with another layer of the sugar mixture, then repeat the layers until all the fish has been covered. Refrigerate for 1 - 2 days.

The texture of the fish changed considerably after 24 hours. The fish becomes stiff and what I would call "pickled." Instead of being soft and floppy this piece of fish is now completely stiff.

Now that the fish was cured, it could travel home with Daniel and Tiffany to Tennessee. We drained the liquid that had formed in the dish, then mixed up another batch of salt/sugar cure and repacked the fish in layers, this time in zip top bags, then the bags were placed on ice in a cooler.

Our Gravad Mackerel was a success, because I received this picture of the appetizers that Daniel and Tiffany had made after returning home. They sliced the fish to serve on Ritz crackers then topped it off with a Yogurt Dill Sauce that Daniel even included his recipe for.

Print Recipe

Yogurt Dill Sauce

1 cup Greek yogurt
Fresh dill, chopped (about 2 inches of a sprig)
Zest of one lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, combine yogurt, dill, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper; mix well.

Our family vacation this summer was a lot of fun. I forgot to mention the beach, the boogie boards, the crab catching, the swimming, and the souvenir shopping. It's just that trying out new food and cooking ideas are the real adventures to me!