A Southern Grace: April 2009

April 28, 2009



That's an interesting word, is it not?

If I could only consume one source of meat for the rest of my days, it'd have to be chicken. It's so delicious and versatile. Roast it, poach it, bake it. Broil it, boil it, fry it. Ground it, shred it, dice it. Marinate it, rub it, sauce it. And so on, and so forth--the combinations are truly endless.

One ingredient I've never combined with chicken is nut butter, but I know it's a popular combination in many African and Thai dishes. Apparently it's popular in Spanish cuisine as well--I found a recipe on the Barney Butter site for Spanish Almond Chicken that certainly seemed worth a try.

This dish is a happy blend of chicken, carrots, onions, garlic, mushrooms, and spinach dressed in a stellar sauce consisting of almond butter, saffron-infused sherry, and lemon juice. Another wonderful component is the mixture of herbs and spices--cloves and ginger, thyme and parsley. Saffron and sherry are not items I keep in my cabinets, but they ended up being well worth the investment--they added a depth of flavor that really made the dish something unique and completely fantastic.

If you like exotic flavors, I urge you to give this recipe a try. There are a lot of things going on at once, and they're all enjoyable. Nut butter and chicken are indeed a delightful duo.

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April 24, 2009

languish no more!


It's inevitable that even the most loyal banana-eater will end up with one or two of the suckers that're just too mushy to eat. You know what I mean--they practically turn to liquid in your hand. When that happens, I usually turn to banana bread (as evidenced here and here...and here and here)(good grief). This time, however, I went for something far more daring...

...banana bars.

I know what you're thinking--"Someone get a straight jacket for that gal--she's out of control!" Although I may, in fact, need a straight jacket, it's probably not because I've departed from trusty ol' banana bread. :)

I first spotted these bars on Melanie's all-around fabulous and reliable blog My Kitchen Cafe. I remember thinking at the time that I'd never before seen such a moist and fluffy banana concoction, and I was right. The moistness of this cake is almost unreal. Granted, I used two heaping cups of banana, but I suspect that the tender, melt-in-your-mouth quality would be present regardless.

Yes, smothering the bars with my almond butter ice cream was definitely a good idea.

I sprinkled some leftover granola across the unbaked bars--I thought it would give a nice contrasting texture (and would get rid of said leftover granola). I also added some ginger to the batter, which, in retrospect, was a regrettable decision. Why, you ask? The plain and simple truth is that ginger can't hold a candle to my beloved cinnamon.

The last change I made was to top the bars with an easy glaze (powdered sugar, water, vanilla, and a bit more ginger), and it was...pretty nice. The moral of this story is that if I was in love with ginger, these bars would be perfection. Meh, I guess that just gives me a reason to make them again.

The-Moistness-Knows-No-End Banana Bars
(adapted from this recipe)

½ cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger
2 cups mashed bananas
1 cup granola

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 10x15-inch jellyroll pan or one 9x13-inch pan and an additional 8x8-inch pan. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then beat in the sour cream, vanilla, and mashed bananas. Combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, and salt in a medium bowl; stir into the batter. Spread evenly into the prepared pan(s) and sprinkle granola across the top of the batter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

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April 21, 2009

no chocolate in sight...


...and I'm okay with that.

I don't think I've ever seen peanut butter ice cream. Yes, I've seen peanut butter ice cream with chocolate swirls and peanut butter ice cream with chocolate pieces and chocolate ice cream with peanut butter swirls and every other combination under the sun. But truly, other than in ice cream parlors, have you ever seen straight peanut butter ice cream?

Well, you still haven't. This is almond butter ice cream, and it's luscious. Smooth and creamy, nutty and rich--everything a good ice cream should be and more.

I borrowed my co-worker's ice cream machine to make this, and I'm so glad I did. Sometimes we're forced to make the things we crave but can't find in the grocery store (like, say, cinnamon ice cream).

Did I mention that this recipe is another Barney Butter tried-and-true? It is, and we have Michele Thompson to thank for it (and the previous two Barney Butter recipes as well). She's the Channel Editor for SheKnows.com and Food Editor for ChefMom.com, and she created all the recipes on the Barney Butter site.

Kudos to you, Michele, and more ice cream for me. Please.

And although phenomenal by itself, the ice cream's even better on a warm, moist banana bar.

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April 17, 2009

birthdays and broiled bliss


I don't know about you, but I like baking my own birthday cake. I can make exactly what I want exactly how I want it.

This birthday was no exception.

It seems like I crave a different cake every year. Last year, it was all about carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. This year, I went in a completely different direction--oatmeal cake with broiled coconut topping.

It might not sound spectacular, but it is. Oh, how it is. The cake is moist and rife with cinnamon, while the topping consists of crunchy toasted coconut and rich caramel goo.

Can we please talk about the pool of bubbly caramel goodness at the bottom there?
Good googa mooga.
I hope I got that piece.

Yeah, I was satisfied--it was a good birthday. I'm sorry there's no money shot of a piece, but every time I cut a slab for myself, I simply couldn't pause for even a second before digging in.

Oatmeal Cake with Broiled Coconut Topping
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Coconut Topping:
1/2 cup milk
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup butter
1 cup flaked coconut

For the cake, preheat oven to 325F and grease a 9x13" cake pan.
Combine oats and boiling water, stirring to blend well. Let stand 20 minutes.
In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars. Add the eggs, vanilla, and cooled oatmeal mixture, beating until well blended.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add to the creamed mixture, beating until smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 30-35 minutes.

While the cake is baking, prepare the topping. Combine the milk, butter, and brown sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in the coconut. When the cake comes out of the oven, poke several holes in it with the tines of a fork and immediately spread the topping over the hot cake. Turn the broiler on and return the cake to oven for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the coconut is nicely toasted. Although it's probably best to let the cake cool before cutting into it, no harm is done in digging some out immediately, topping it with a large portion of butter pecan ice cream, and shoveling it into one's mouth. No harm at all.

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April 14, 2009

a dazzling debut!


This stunning creation marks the first use of the springform pan I've owned for years and years.

Impressed? Surprised? I was both.

In case you haven't noticed, I've really been enjoying my Barney Butter. I've used it in several sweet treats, but this time it found a home in something much more healthy and savory.

Although the Barney Butter site refers to this as a tart, I can't help but think of it as a quiche. Granted, the crust is a little different from the usual pastry crust, but I still think I'd like to call this a tiche (quart is already taken).

So how is it? Funny you should ask, because it's the best darn tiche I've ever had. And guess what--it's cheeseless. I'm sure many of you would take care of that posthaste, but I didn't mind at all. The subtle nutmeg is very pleasant, and the spinach provides color and that "Hey, this is good for me!" feeling. The crust is something special altogether, and I can see many uses for it in the future. The almond flavor is certainly there, but it's not so strong that it takes away from anything else.

Yes indeedly, this tiche is a fine breakfast dish--relatively easy to assemble and super simple to consume.

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April 8, 2009

a vehicle for jelly


Don't get me wrong--I like a good biscuit, and the flakier, the better.

I just find the jelly part more appealing, that's all.

Confession: I really enjoy those refrigerated biscuits from Pillsbury that you can peel apart, layer by layer. They're second only to my Mamma-lamma's shortening-based beauties in my shortlist of awesome biscuits. The pucks of flour featured in this post don't even make said shortlist, but that's okay. As I said, the jelly's the star here.

Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to give you the recipe. It's Mamster's concoction, and she's pretty much got a patent on the process. I will tell you that it's apple-cinnamon (and therefore amazing) and sweetened only with fruit and natural xylose.

Maybe she'll release her hold on the recipe one day, or maybe she'll start making it in bulk, sell it, and become ridiculously wealthy. Either way, it's win-win for me. :)

Not satisfied without a biscuit recipe? Want a good one? Try Sophie's, Maria's, Robin Sue's, or Dawn's. They all do good work.

Speaking of Mamburger, I'll be spending Easter (and my birthday)(which is today) with her and the rest of my family in VA--hooray! I hope you all enjoy your holidays!

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April 6, 2009



Yes, I watched Sesame Street as a child, and yes, I was fond of Snuffleupagus.

But no, I never knew his first name was Aloysius.

Aloysius Snuffleupagus. Come on--awesome, right? That's quite possibly the best name ever, and that's all there is to it. Future son of mine, be prepared.

Okay, this post isn't really about Snuffleupagus. It's about truffles. Get it? Truffle-upagus? Boy-o, I'm easily amused on a Monday morning.

Generally, I save truffle-making for occasions when I have deep reserves of patience and lots of time on my hands. I consider it a trying process. Lately, though, I've been inspired and motivated by my Barney Butter, and I was easily able to summon up the courage to attempt their truffle recipe.

I'm here to tell you, folks--these truffles are unlike any I've ever had, in a good way. They're replete with the almond butter flavor, set off nicely by the subtle cocoa powder, vanilla, and honey. Depending on what you roll them in [I tried powdered sugar, more cocoa powder, cloves, and (surprise) cinnamon], the little balls of heaven are easily able to take on other flavors.

I didn't even have that much trouble with them, thanks in part to numerous and lengthy rest stops in the refrigerator. Give 'em a try, especially if you like that good ol' chocolate-nut butter combination. I recommend giving them a tumble in cinnamon and a quick visit to the freezer.

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April 2, 2009

a slab of buttered cornbread a day...


...makes one healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Or am I getting my adages mixed up?

I may have mentioned before that my grandpa has eaten a piece of cornbread with his lunch every single day for as long as I've known him. Sometimes he even has some for supper too. Needless to say, it's something my grandma can make with her eyes closed and one hand tied behind her back whilst adamantly quizzing me about any men in my life.

This isn't your fluffy, cake-like, sweet, Yankee-fied (no offense intended) version. Rather, it's classically Southern, with a crispy, crunchy, crusty exterior and crumbly, coarse, super butter-absorbent interior, perfect for sopping up whatever meat or bean or vegetable juices might be pooling up on one's plate.

There are two requirements for Grandma's recipe: a cast-iron skillet and shortening. It's just not the same without those components.

As I mentioned above, sometimes my grandpa has a second piece of cornbread for supper. He doesn't slather this one with butter, though, oh no. This one he crumbles into a glass of cold milk. Have you tried this? Grandma calls it "cornbread milk"--pretty aptly-named, am I right? I must say, it's pretty amazing. Be sure to let the bread get soggy and flavor up the milk--you won't regret it.

I'm contributing this recipe to Laura from The Spiced Life for her wonderful event Grandma's Recipes, which spotlights recipes passed down to us from our grandmothers. Isn't that a great idea?

Any recipe we've been lucky enough to learn from these women is undoubtedly a keeper.

Frannie's Fine and Fabulous Cornbread
(I made a half-batch, which is why mine's so thin)
1/3 cup shortening
2 cups self-rising cornmeal
1 egg, slightly beaten
scant 2 cups milk

Spray an 8-inch cast-iron skillet with nonstick spray, toss in shortening, and place into an oven preheated to 450F.
In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, egg, and milk; mix until combined. Remove melted shortening from oven and pour into mixture; stir until blended. Pour batter into the skillet and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Turn out onto a plate, slice, serve, butter, and consume.

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