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Archive for February, 2011

It is Monday again, but this week is a little different.  C & I are traveling a few days this week so the menu plan has been postponed.  I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

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If you recall, a few weeks ago on a Thoughtful Thursday post, I said I was starting a Southern Plate-Picture Perfect Cooking Project a la the Julia/Julie Project.  Well, here is my first official entry!

This is Southern semi-homemade at its finest, combining a yummy chocolate cake with a rich milky caramel sauce topped with crushed candy bars and whipped topping.  What’s not to like about all of that?  If all of Southern Plate’s recipes turn out this good, this project is going to be fun!

The only little, teeny-tiny change I made was to the cake mix.  The original recipe called for a devil’s food cake mix and all I had was a milk chocolate so I just used that instead.  You can use either one you like.

1 box chocolate cake mix

1 jar caramel ice cream topping

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 container frozen whipped topping, thawed

6 fun-size Butterfinger candy bars

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Prepare the cake according to package directions in a 13×9” baking dish.  A few minutes before the cake is done, combine the caramel ice cream topping and sweetened condensed milk.

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As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, poke holes in it with a big fork.  Go crazy and put as many holes are you want.  Pour the sauce over the cake and allow it to set at room temperature for about 45 minutes.  Notice how all of that good sauce soaks right in.

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Chill in the fridge for several hours or overnight like I did.  Crush the candy bars with a rolling pin.  Sprinkle about 2/3 of the crumbs over the cake and top with the whipped topping.  Sprinkle the remaining crumbs over the topping and enjoy!

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A sure sign of springtime…

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Menu Plan Monday

It’s is Monday again and time for me to get back in the swing of things.  I haven’t been very active since C & I were involved in a car accident a couple of weeks ago, but the aches and pains are much better so I am ready to get back to my routine.  Of course, that means menu planning and cooking!  This week’s plan relies on simple familiar dishes that I can make (almost) with my eyes closed.

Cheesy steak sandwiches with oven baked fries

Tomato soup & grilled cheese sandwiches

Grilled pork chops with butter roasted potatoes and salad

Pizza night

Fish & Steak night from the neighborhood restaurant

I know that’s only five dinners, but there are a couple of nights this week that I am not planning because I am not sure what we will be doing.  This is as close as I can get this time!  I hope everyone has a great week!

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Peanut Butter Cups

Peanut Butter Cups are one of mine & C’s favorites treats.  C is not a big sweet eater, preferring salty or spicy snacks, but if he wants a sweet treat these are what he usually goes for.  Of course, we have always eaten the “store-bought” cups in the orange wrappers, but I found this homemade version at Joy of Baking and decided to give it a try.  We were not disappointed!  These don’t taste exactly like the originals and the chocolate coating is crisper than the originals as well.  At least, that is how mine turned out, but they were still good, good, good!

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 cup powdered sugar

9 oz semi sweet chocolate chips

9 oz milk chocolate chips

1 tbsp shortening

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Line a miniature muffin pan with paper liners.  This is supposed to make 36 cups and my pan only held 24 liners, so I just left the rest on the counter.

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Place the peanut butter, unsalted butter, and salt in a microwave-safe bowl.  Heat in the microwave for 20 second intervals until the peanut butter and butter are soft enough to mix together but not melted.  This took about 40 seconds.  Stir in the powdered sugar.  This completes the filling.

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In a separate bowl, melt the 2 chocolates with the shortening in the microwave oven at 50% power for about 2 minutes, checking the progress after 1 minute.  Stir the chips until they are completely melted, then cook for 20 seconds at a time.  Drop a teaspoon of the chocolate in each liner.  Top this with a scant teaspoon of the peanut butter mixture.  At this point, the cups will look like this:

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By the way, I overfilled mine just a little.  Pour another teaspoon of the melted chocolate over the top of the peanut butter and spread it around until it completely covers the top and seals around the edges of the paper liner.

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Refrigerate until set and enjoy!! Store these in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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Look at the cute little ridges that result from the paper liners! 

Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Scharffen Berger.

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C & I are big movie fans.  C loves action movies, comedies, and sci-fi.  I like those, too, but I also love a good romance or period drama.  If it is about England many years ago, I will watch it every time!  In fact, while we were dating, movie night was our go-to date plan.  If there wasn’t anything at the theater that we wanted to see, we would rent one at the local movie rental place (how quaint does that sound in the time of on-demand :)) and grab a pizza.  What is amazing is that even though we watched lots of movies, we never went to a 3D movie at a theater until a little over a year ago; and, yes, it was Avatar.  This James Cameron blockbuster that had been hyped for months was every bit as good as the hype! 

The 3D effects were amazing!  I think it helped that this movie was set in a fantasy planet and the creators’ imaginations could run wild.  It was well worth the extra couple of dollars that the 3D added to the ticket price.

What I don’t understand is…now movie makers are adding “3D” to ordinary action movies where, in my opinion, it does not call for it.  For example, a little while ago C & I went to see The Green Hornet at our local movie house and it was good.  There was plenty of action and funny moments, too, but…the 3D was wasted.  Luckily, we had free tickets thanks to a cereal box giveaway, but I would have been disappointed to have paid extra for the 3D and then experienced this movie.  Don’t get me wrong, we had a great time and would watch this again but the movie companies are going overboard trying to make money. 

All theaters charge a premium for the 3D experience and I can understand that.  I am sure many people don’t return the glasses and they cost extra.  We always recycle ours at the theater. 

I recently read an article on Yahoo news regarding movie companies and television manufacturers cranking out 3D movies and televisions to catch the wave of this phenomenon.  The  irony lies in this…the article also states that there are many, many people who can’t watch 3D because it gives them headaches or, what I refer to as, motion sickness.  I can relate to these people.  The old red and green 3D glasses would make me feel that way, too.  My vision is far from perfect and I wear glasses all the time.  The newer 3D glasses are a lot easier to use with regular glasses so I can now enjoy watching.

My thought is this…movie companies are in business to make money and that’s fine, but they are not helping themselves by force-feeding options to viewers for extra bucks when the viewers may not even want them.  I know we don’t go to as many movies as we used to.  Time is a factor, but so is the cost and the quality of movies that are available.  Most of the time, we are fine to wait the few months until they are available by mail and enjoy them at home.  So, what is your opinion? Do you feel that the movie quality is getting better or worse?  What would you like to see at the local cinema?  More effects or cheaper ticket prices?

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Happy Valentine’s Day

C & I wish everyone a very wonderful Valentine’s Day!  What, you say, no menu plan this week?  That’s right, folks, I am taking a week off since last week’s was a disaster.  How? 

Well, Monday afternoon, about two inches of snow fell in our area.  C & I were heading home together after work and about 4 miles from home, we had to stop and put the vehicle in four wheel drive.  We had no problems at all for another couple of miles and then IT happened!  I am not sure exactly what IT was, but our vehicle started sliding off the road, went down a ten foot embankment and we hit a tree…HARD.  VERY HARD!!  Hard enough that the vehicle bounced back about three feet and hit another tree in the back.  The tow truck driver said it looked like the vehicle was parallel parked in between them.

Thankfully, C & I only sustained minor injuries, mainly scratches and bruises, but we were so sore.  Actually, we are still sore, but it is slowly getting better.  Not much cooking was done last week, and probably not this week either.  I hope to get back on track next week if I feel like it.

Here is hoping that you, my fearless reader, have an awesome week!

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Divinity

I have always been more of a baker than a candy-maker, but this candy is my favorite.  It is light and sweet, but it is not over-powering.  Making divinity is a delicate procedure that requires my full attention or candy disaster will strike!

I love to make this around the holidays if the weather allows.  It did this past Christmas and I got to make it twice.  The first attempt was a little sticky because the humidity was just a little too high, but the second attempt was just perfect!

I hope you try this.  The time it take to make it is more than worth it, just remember to watch the weather.  The drier the air the better the divinity!

4 cups sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

3/4 cup water

3 egg whites, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

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Lay out sheets of wax paper for the candy to dry.

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Combine sugar, syrup and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Over low heat, stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Clip on a candy thermometer and cook without stirring until it reaches 255 degrees (hard ball stage).  This will take about 20 minutes.

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When the syrup is about 250 degrees, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Remove the syrup from the heat.  Pour very slowly into the egg whites, beating constantly on high speed.  This previous step is very, very important.  You must pour slowly and do NOT turn off the mixer while you are doing this.

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Continue beating on high sped until the mixture holds its shape and loses its shine.  I know this sounds vague, but I promise it will happen.  When you first pour the syrup in the egg whites, the candy is extremely glossy.  After you beat it for about 10-15 minutes, it becomes matte.  Depending on the humidity, you may have to beat the mixture for a longer period of time. The first batch I made, I beat for 20 minutes and it was still a little glossy.  Too much humidity!  The candy still tasted good but it was too sticky.

Add vanilla and pecans.  Working quickly, drop by tablespoonfuls onto the waxed paper and allow the candy to harden and cool.  Here is the first batch that I made.

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See how shiny it is.  Here is a photo of candy from the second batch.  You can definitely see the difference!

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Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Beanilla.

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Menu Plan Monday

Another week has passed and it is STILL WINTER!!!!  Our area has a chance of snow almost every day this week, but luckily we are not supposed to have much accumulation.  I feel so sorry for the folks in the Chicago area and the Northeastern part of the country.  As soon as they start to dig out from one storm, another one comes down on them.  I am so glad that I live as far south as I do!

This week’s menu is a little strange because this week is a little strange.  I have to go to the grocery one night so we will probably eat out. We have tickets to watch a local university play basketball one night, so we will probably make use of a steakhouse gift card that I received at Christmas.  There are also multiple days of court at my job this week, so I might use takeout one of those nights, too.  There won’t be much home-cooking this week which means no new recipes.

I don’t know if you have noticed, but I am usually short one night of dinners each week.  We live out in the “boonies” to use a local term and there is actually a restaurant just a couple of miles down the road that serves the best fried fish ever!  We usually eat there every Saturday night so that is why I am always short one dinner, just so you know that we are not fasting that night!  🙂

Cheesy steak sandwiches and oven fries

Sausage bake and salad

Pizza night

Mandarin orange cake (This is also a Southern Plate dish, but since I have been making it for years, I am not including it in my “project”.)

Shredded pork bbq

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Faux Red Lobster Biscuits

Red Lobster is one of my all-time favorite restaurants.  My mom & I used to eat there on shopping trips and on her doctor appointment check-up days.  We called it our “good news” restaurant.  I really miss getting to go with her, but I have continued the tradition of “girl’s day” with my grandmother and aunt and we eat there when we go shopping.

One of the best things there are the cheesy garlic biscuits and I have tried and tried to duplicate them with no luck.  However, I recently purchased a bottle of garlic bread seasoning and decided to try these biscuits again.  Eureka!  The taste of these is very, very close to the real deal.

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 self-rising flour

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 tbsp garlic bread seasoning

2 tbsp unsalted butter

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine the whipping cream and 1 1/2 cups flour to form the basic biscuit dough.  Stir in the cheese and seasoning just until combined; don’t over mix this or the biscuits will be tough.  Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto a lined baking sheet or a pizza stone.

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Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are just starting to brown.  At about the 15 minute mark, melt the butter and set aside.  When the biscuits are done, pull them out of the oven and immediately brush the melted butter over them.  Let the butter soak completely into the biscuit and enjoy!

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