Spring Cleaning

The pantry was cluttered with ingredients from holiday baking. A half of a bag of red and green chocolate chips, a half box of red and green Rice Krispies, dried cranberries, some chopped pecans in the bottom of a bag — you get the messy picture. It was time to make room for spring stuff.

Basically, I threw everything into a cookie batter. I know that nowadays you can buy cookies as good as, or even better than, what you can make at home. But, there’s something about warming up the oven and allowing the sweet smell to waft through the house. It all screams, “Mom’s home!”

Hopefully, the sights and smells of a spring day, still cold and damp outside, will linger in the memories of those I love.

House Special CookiesSpring cleaning use this one

These are chewy cookies and you can improvise on how much of what you want to add (e.g. raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, etc.). Use what you have on hand.

  • 1-1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled outs
  • 1 cup Rice Krispies
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 nuts or 1/2 dried cranberries/raisins

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg together in a bowl and set aside.

Beat the butter and sugars together in a large bowl using an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla, blend until combined.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly mix in the flour mixture until combined. Mix in the remaining ingredients.

Working with 1/4 cup of dough at time, toll the dough into balls and place on baking sheet about 2-1/2 inches apart. Slightly flatten the balls of dough.

Bake until the tops of the cookies are lightly golden but the centers are soft and puffy – about 22 to 25 minutes.

Let the cookies cool on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes then transfer to a cooking rack to finish cooling.

Ringing in 2016 with Thanks to 50,000+ of You!

Can you hear me screaming? Kelley Hospitality hit the 50,000+ mark in hits in 2015 and I have you to thank for that. We go together like salt and pepper. You wanted to know about all-things hospitality – food, family, friends, and folklore. And I had a passion for writing about it.

What is the All-Time Most Popular Blog Posting on Kelley Hospitality?

Ding! Ding! Ding!…It’s “A Fork Supper.” You needed a delicious meal you could serve at a large party and I had just the recipe! Here it is again for those of you just tuning in.

I wish you the best in 2016 and I look forward to more memories of hospitality recorded in these pages. Thank you and Happy New Year!

 

A Fine Brine

It’s complex, it’s big, it’s tangy, it’s the varietal brine of that sweet, yet spicy, fruit called the Peppadew®. I’ve incorporated these morsels of good in many recipes, but I’m telling you, do not throw away the brine!

Use the Peppadew® brine in place of vinegar when tossing your favorite oil and vinegar dressing on your greens. Use the brine when making slaw dressing for some added tang.

Here’s a dressing I created using the Peppadew® brine to go along with a salad using fall fruits. Pair this salad with any grilled beef, chicken or pork. And remember, don’t throw away that brine!

Pear-Apple Salad with Peppadew Dressing
16-oz of mixed salad greens
1/3 cup Peppadews®, chopped
1 cup Swiss cheese, shaved
1 cup roasted nuts – either pecans or cashews
1 red apple (Gala or Honeycrisp), sliced thinly
1 green pear (Anjou), sliced thinly
Toss together all the above ingredients with the Peppadew Dressing (recipe below).

Peppadew Dressing for Pear-Apple Salad

Morsels of Good

Morsels of Good

2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup Peppadew® brine
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Process ingredients in a blender or shaker until smooth. Can make ahead and store in the refrigerator for up to one week; bring to room temperature before using.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Patriotic Popcorn

Here’s three flavored popcorn recipes — all dressed up in red, white and blue for Memorial Day. These bags of yum make great gifts. Pop your corn in Canola or coconut oil. No time today to do this? Bookmark it for Fourth of July.

One more thing – thank you to all who served our country in the military and died for our freedom. “Some gave all …”

Popcorn Recipes Picture Here
Chocolate and M&M’s Popcorn – click for recipe

White Chocolate-Peanut Popcorn
This recipe was inspired by Chef in Training who has captured many popcorn recipes from across the blog world. 

  • 8 cups popped popcorn
  • 12 ounces of white chocolate candy melts
  • 1 – 2 cups peanuts, depending on taste, coarsely chop or not
  • Sea salt to taste

Melt the white chocolate candy melts according to package.

Mix half the popcorn with half the chocolate and half the peanuts. Mix the other half together. Salt to taste.

Line two baking sheets with wax paper. Pour the popcorn on the trays so the chocolate can set.

Store in air-tight container.

Salted Caramel Popcorn
Recipe from Six Sisters’ Stuff. These girls can cook!

  • 1 cup unpopped popcorn
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 cups light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Sea salt to taste

Pop popcorn and place in a large mixing bowl.

In a saucepan over medium heat melt butter. Add brown sugar and whisk together until mixed. Add water.

Continue stirring until it comes to a full boil and whisk continually for 5-10 minutes, until mixture hits the soft-ball candy stage. (Put a few drops of the cooked mixture in a glass of cold water until the drops form a soft ball.)

Remove mixture from heat and mix in vanilla extract and baking soda. Continue stirring as the mixture goes puffy.

Drizzle cooked caramel mixture over popcorn and lightly stir until evenly coated. Salt to taste.

Cool on two baking sheets lined with wax paper. Store in airtight container

It’s Corny but Yummy

I’m not breaking any ground here because flavored-up popcorn has been a favored treat for a long time. The gourmet stores are charging a hefty price for a bag of the sweet stuff. It’s so easy to make at home for a fraction of the cost.

The Chef in Training blog has captured popcorn recipes from all around the blog world. Check them out. One of the recipes inspired the one I made here.

My hints: I use Wilton Candy Melts instead of chocolate chips for the melted chocolate. I find them easier to work with. You can find similar products in the grocery store produce section.

I don’t prefer microwave popcorn; it’s too full of chemicals and seasonings I don’t want. Pop the corn in a kettle on the stove with either Canola oil or coconut oil. A bag of unpopped popcorn goes a long way.

This isn’t the last you’ll hear from me on popcorn, I’m just getting started!

Chocolate and M&M’s® Popcorn

  • 8 cups popped popcorn
  • 11 ounces of chocolate candy melts
  • 9-ounce bag of M&M’s® Crispy
  • Sea salt to taste

Pulse M&M’s® in a food processor or coarsely chop M&M’s® (put in a plastic bag and pound with a rolling pin).

Melt the chocolate candy melts according to package.

Mix half the popcorn with half the chocolate and M&M’s®. Mix the other half of the ingredients together.

Line two baking sheets with wax paper. Pour the popcorn on the trays so the chocolate can set.

Store in air-tight container (if it lasts that long!).

Nothing Bundt Flowers!

Welcome spring with a flowery, colorful cake! Make your favorite Bundt cake, add some silk flowers, butterflies, garden picks and other spring accents (walk the aisles of Michaels for inspiration), and let your ideas bloom.

Make a two-layer cake by using a smaller Bundt pan for the top layer. Place the smaller cake on a cardboard cake ring. Chocolate lady bugs, mossy grass, and garden picks add some garden fun!

Winter White

The scene along Route 193 is one of brown bare branches against a white background (a cloudy sky or snow, depending on the day) accented with evergreens (holly and pine).These are the stark shades of winter.

Take inspiration from Mother Nature to decorate your table. Use white flowers, white candles, white dishes, all on a palette of browns and greens. Use fresh magnolia leaves, burlap runners, branches, pine cones, and fabrics in greens and browns.

Here I used a simple rectangular-shaped glass vessel and filled it with crystal rocks to hold white flowers in place (both found at Michaels). A brown runner and mossy green tablecloth made the white pop. White candles added a warm glow.

What’s the occasion? Maybe it’s a winter birthday or just a get together for northern folks who need to get out. Here are some ideas for food:

  • Dessert, coffee and a dessert wine or port
  • Soup or stew and crusty bread washed down with a hearty beer
  • Appetizers and drinks
  • A potluck supper
  • A full-course meal

Stay warm!

 

 

 

“Necessity is the Mother of Invention” — King Cakes for Mardi Gras

A few years ago about this time, in my exuberance, I volunteered to make King Cakes for Mardi Gras for my son’s school. I had no idea what was involved. I just raised my hand and said “King Cakes” because I knew they were associated with Mardi Gras. I left knowing I would figure it out later when the time came.

What is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) is the time from the Epiphany culminating on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday which begins Lent, a time for penance and fasting. This year, Mardi Gras is on March 4. Here are some of the various names for the celebration. No matter where, it always involves a feast before the fast.

  • New Orleans/France: Mardi Gras
  • Brazil: Carnival
  • Italy: Carnivale
  • Germany: Fastnacht or Fasching
  • United Kingdom and Ireland: Shrove Tuesday

King Cakes

The King Cake takes its name from the biblical three kings who visited the Christ child on January 6, the Epiphany. In the Gulf Coast region of the United States, the tradition was brought to the area by colonists from France and Spain. King Cake parties in New Orleans are documented back to the eighteenth century. The most traditional style of King Cake is a ring of twisted bread similar to that used in brioche topped with icing or sugar, usually colored purple, green, and gold, the traditional Mardi Gras colors. Purple for justice. Green for faith. Gold for power.

Each cake is baked with a tiny plastic baby representing the Baby Jesus, or some type of trinket or bean. In the south, whoever finds the trinket must provide the next King Cake or host the next Mardi Gras party.

Now, Back to My Problem

All I know is I had to produce 10 King Cakes in a short time and I had no idea how to do it. I did my research on the Internet and found the Louisiana-style King Cake — a cinnamon-roll-like cake inside with sugary icing and traditional Mardi Gras-colored sprinkles on the outside.

I found the KingsCakeShop.com and Haydel’s Bakers, both in Louisiana, who were long-time bakers of this authentic cake. Oh that’s easy, I’ll just place an order and they can be shipped right to the school. Job done. Wait…King Cakes ordered from Mardi Gras town, although wonderful and authentic, ranged from $35 to $60. Okay…that times 10 cakes equals around $500! What did I volunteer for again?

Making them myself was an option but, really, ten of them? Brioche-like? Twisted yeast bread with fillings of cream cheese and cinnamon? Cinnamon-roll-like? Ten King Cakes by when? Once again, I had gotten myself in over my head.

I had to think fast. No way would I back down on my promise so I started thinking. Soon my easy, inexpensive King Cake version was born! I call the recipe, Easy King Cakes You Can Make When You Have to Make 10 of Them. And you know what? They are delicious too. So, all you busy people, go ahead and make a King Cake this year and impress everyone. Enjoix and laissez les bons temps rouler! 

“Easy King Cakes You Can Make When You Have to Make 10 of Them”

  • Prep time: 8 minutes per cake
  • Baking time: 25-30 minutes per cake
  • Decorating time: 10 minutes per cake, if that
  • Cost per cake: Approx. $7

Ingredients

  • 3 cans cinnamon roll ready-to-bake dough (12.4 oz. can)
  • 1 can cream cheese frosting
  • Sprinkles – purple, green and gold
  • One naked plastic baby (Can be bought at party stores or places that carry baking items. These are specially made to withstand high baking temperatures.)

Pop open all three tubes of cinnamon rolls and put in a bowl. Knead all the rolls together and on a lightly-floured surface, roll the dough into a tube-like form.

Shape the tube into a ring. If you want your King Cake to be bigger, use more cans of cinnamon rolls.

Bury the naked baby deep into the dough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the ring on the sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Bury the naked baby in the dough before baking.

Let cool and when still slightly warm, ice the cake with the icing from the three cans. Supplement with cream cheese canned frosting.

Decorate the icing with sprinkles of purple, green and gold, the colors of Mardi Gras.

 

Soothing the Soul

It was a hard week and our friends’ elderly mother passed away. We feel the loss of Edna Mae Reagan Devlin – a fine Irish cailín who never had a bad thing to say about anyone. She made you feel good about yourself and that’s something to be remembered for. Why not make some big, chewy cookies and share them with friends who need a little comfort?

Big and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies – You’ll Want to Bookmark this One!
From The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

You can substitute any kind of chocolate or peanut butter chips for the semisweet ones. I used both white chocolate and milk chocolate. The recipe calls for 2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks (the extra fat makes it chewy but not tough). The melted butter accounts for the chewy inside.

Hint: What to do with the leftover egg whites? I decided to beat them slightly with a tablespoon of water and a few drops of vanilla extract. Brush the cookie all over with the egg wash before baking and you will have a nice browned cookie; otherwise they are a little pale. (If you want to read about pale cookies, click here.)

America’s Test Kitchen is famous for testing their recipes to reach perfection. Follow their meticulous instructions and you can count on them to bring it on home!

INGREDIENTS

  • 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1-1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks (see my suggestion in the intro for what to do with the leftover egg whites)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (12-ounce bag) semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

Adjust the oven racks to the upper and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.

Beat the butter and sugars in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed until combined, one to two minutes. Beat in the eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla, until combined, about 30 second, scraping down the bowl and the beaters as needed.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly mix in the flour mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Mix in the chocolate chips until incorporates.

Working with 1/4 cup of dough at a time, roll the dough into balls and lay on two parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced about 2-1/2 inches apart. (Hint: Here is where you can brush with the egg wash.)

Bake until the edges are golden but the centers are still soft and puffy, 17 to 20 minutes, rotating and switching the baking sheets halfway through baking.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then serve warm or transfer to a wire rack.

Outdoor Dinner Foiled Again!

I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny,
but we can have lots of good fun that is funny.” 

Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

Planning an outdoor dinner party is always tricky in July, especially when summer afternoon rainstorms are the norm.  But all that planning for the outdoors can be easily brought indoors with a positive attitude and some strategic switching of gears. Move in and don’t look back thinking the sun will eventually shine. It usually doesn’t.

Get inspiration from summer flowers and sunny colors. Here I brought the outdoors in with some summer blooms randomly arranged in glass pots used with yellow place mats and napkins. (Yellow is a happy color, remember that.) The food will still be good, the guests will still arrive, and you can still “have lots of good fun that is funny!”