Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Better Than Sex Cake

 Well, well, well.  Here you have it, the raunchiest named cake that I have ever heard of.  Oh, wait, except for the grooms men's cake in Steel Magnolias, the armadillo cake.  That one just may take the cake.  Alright, enough of that, let's get to the point. This cake is amazingly delicious.  If you are looking for the ultimate chocolate cake sweet fix, then look no further.  This puppy here is gonna be right up your alley.  It is beyond moist, beyond sweet without being overboard and is some serious eye candy for sure.  Not only will you wow your guests, but also your taste buds.  Never have I ever been a big fan of toffee, but this here cake has changed that.  I absolutely love it now.

1 box of devil's food chocolate cake mix (prepared as directed with room temperature eggs)
1/2 a jar of chocolate ice cream topping
1/2 a jar of caramel ice cream topping
1/2 a can of sweetened condensed milk
4 standard-sized toffee candy bars (chopped and separated in 1/2, I use Heath bars and have used Snicker's bars as well)
1 tub of Cool Whip (I used Lite this time, just cause I thought it was funny)

-Preheat your oven to 350*.  Grease the bottom of a 9x13" baking dish and pour your prepared devil's food cake batter into it.  Bake at 350* for 30-35 minutes, or until an inserted wooden toothpick pulls out clean.  Allow your cake to stand and cool completely before finishing.  Once your cake has completely cooled, take the wrong end of a wooden spoon and poke large holes all over the top of the cake (don't go too crazy or it will all fall apart, but there needs to be enough to allow all the goodies to sink into the cake).  Then drizzle the surface of the cake with 1/4 of a jar of chocolate topping, 1/4 of a jar of caramel topping and 1/2 of a can of sweetened condensed milk.  Sprinkle it with 1/2 of the chopped candy, spread out the Cool Whip on top, drizzle with another 1/4 of a jar of chocolate topping and 1/4 of a jar of caramel topping.  Then sprinkle on the remaining chopped candy.  Insert wooden toothpicks randomly over the top of the cake and cover with saran wrap (the toothpicks keep the saran wrap tented up so that the top of your cake does not get stuck to it).  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour prior to serving (make sure to remove and discard the toothpicks too).  Serves 12.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Homemade Minted-Lemon Scented Laundry Detergent

Here we are getting back to the basics.  Because frankly, going convenient is no longer healthy, due to harmful chemical ingredients that are now being said to cause cancer (fabric softeners), and truthfully, price-wise, just plain out of control.  I sat back and did the math and was shocked at how much I have been spending on 'household' items.  Using the 'proper' amount of detergent for my laundry, I have been spending about $150 a year, give-or-take.  That is ridiculous and that is just for detergent, not even counting fabric softeners, bleach and stain removers like Oxy-Clean (which is crazy expensive).  I am absolutely done with all of this money wasting and the standing open invitation that I am giving to unnecessary harmful chemicals.  I have always been all about being natural and doing these by scratch.  By growing my own ingredients for most of my cooking, like my own herbs, vegetables, fruits and more.  So, I figured, why stop there?  For my family's health and my own pocket book, I will now and forever make my own laundry detergent.

1- 5 1/2oz. bar of Fels-Naptha
4 cups of hot water
a few sprigs of fresh mint bundled and tied with a piece of hemp (my mint was from out in my garden)
a few slices of fresh lemon (I used 5)
1 1/2 cups of 20 Mule Team Borax
1 1/2 cups of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
more hot water

-Grate the entire bar of the Fels-Naptha soap (I just used a handheld cheese grater to do it) right into a large stockpot; set aside.  Place your fresh mint bundle and lemon slices in a medium saucepan with 4 cups of water and get it going on the stove to a boil.  Boil the fruit and herbs for a couple of minutes, then strain it to remove all the leaves and lemons.  Pour the strained scented 4 cups of hot water right into your large stockpot with the grated bar of soap.   Stir  this mixture continuously over medium-low heat until all of the soap flakes have all melted (takes about 10 minutes). It should be a little frothy with no lumps at all. Next, fill a 5-gallon bucket half way full with hot tap water, pour in the soap mixture and add in 1 1/2 cups of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda along with 1 1/2 cups of Borax. Stir this well to combine it all and continue stirring it as you fill the rest of the way up with more hot tap water until the bucket is just about full.  Cover and let it sit overnight (I used a large plastic bowl cover, you could use a lid or saran wrap as well).  The next day, go ahead and uncover it to see that it has thickened up some; stir well.  At this point you can transfer it into containers by pouring it through a funnel into either an old empty detergent bottle (I saved my last couple of 96 load dispenser bottles just for this), old milk jugs, old fabric softener jugs and so on.  Just make sure to give it a good shaking or stirring before each use (it will gel up some from sitting-but that is ok).  Makes 5 GALLONS!  Enjoy saving money and getting creative with scent enhancements!

Honey Buttermilk Pancakes With Toasted Coconut

Well, I just cannot seem to get my fill of toasted coconut lately.  I am finding that the more that I experiment around with it, the more that I am falling in love with it.  I love just everything about it from it's sweet toasty flavor to it's dainty little crunch.  From a cupcake topper to an oatmeal garnish, I love it all.  Especially on top of some pancakes as in this recipe.  It is such a beautiful compliment to their soft pillowy texture.

2 cups of pancake mix (I used Bisquick)
1 tsp. of baking powder
1 T. of lemon juice +enough milk to = 1 cup
1 T. of honey
2 eggs (at room temperature for about 20 minutes, then beaten)
1/4 cup of shredded sweetened baking coconut

-Preheat your oven to 350* (for toasting the coconut).  In a large mixing bowl, stir together the pancake mix and the baking powder.  Place 1 T. of lemon juice into a 1 cup liquid measuring cup, then fill with enough milk to equal 1 cup, this is a makeshift buttermilk.  Stir it well and allow it to stand for a few minutes (you will notice it slightly thicken).  Meanwhile for your coconut, spread it out evenly in a thin layer across a baking sheet and bake at 350* for 5-10 minutes, making sure to watch it very closely after the first 5 minutes (mine took about 7-8 minutes).  When it is a light tan color it is done, remove the pan from the oven and set aside to cool (you can keep any leftover toasted coconut in a sealed container to use on just about anything else-I love it in my oatmeal now).  Once it is ready, create a well in the center of dry mixture in your large mixing bowl.  Pour in the buttermilk, honey and your two beaten room temperature eggs (by allowing them to be room temperature, they will beat up at a higher volume, giving you big puffy pancakes) and stir it all well.  Heat up your griddle or skillet to a medium heat and grease it with a little butter.  Ladle the pancakes on and flip them over once the bubbles on the top begin to pop.  Cook to a nice golden brown on both sides.  Once they are done, serve them with some butter, syrup and a sprinkling of toasted coconut on top.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pina Colada Cupcakes

These little beauties are always such a great hit anywhere I take them.  They are so fancy and pretty, that everyone just has to try at least one, maybe even two.  With a nice subtle brightness and extra moistness from the pineapple jell-o and a cool sugary crunch on top, they just can't be wrong.  Oh no, wrong is definitely not what these cupcakes are.  They are anything but that.

1 box of white cake mix (batter prepared as directed)
1 box of Island Pineapple Instant Jell-O mix
1-2 containers of either white or vanilla cake frosting
1/2 cup of shredded baking coconut

-Prepare your cake batter in a large mixing bowl as directed on the back of it's box.  Stir in the jell-o mix until just about blended, but not quite.  Spoon 3/4's of the way into a paper lined muffin pan.  Bake as directed on the back of the cake mix box for cupcakes.  Once done, remove cupcakes to cool on a wire cookie rack (keeps them from getting 'soggy bottoms').  Meanwhile, for the coconut, preheat the oven to 350*.  Thinly spread out the coconut in a light layer on a cookie sheet.  Bake it for 5-10 minutes, making sure to watch it very carefully after the first 5 minutes (I like mine to be a light tinge of tan).  Once your cupcakes are completely cooled, you can frost them.  Spoon the cake frosting into a Ziploc baggie, squeeze it all down into 1 corner and twist of the top to make a carrot shape.  Then just snip off a bit of the bottom point and pipe it onto the cupcakes and sprinkle their tops with the toasted coconut.  Makes 24.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Chicken and Biscuits

Here is one of my long-time old faithful casseroles.  And it is every bit as down home and filling as it sounds.  I mean, you can't get much more comfort food sounding than hollering out that the chicken and biscuits is ready for dinner.  And I can bet you that this here dish will go farther than you expect.  Even my big ole whiskey barrel chested-husband can maybe do 3 biscuits worth himself and that is it.  They won't be not getting up for seconds because they don't want to, they won't be up getting seconds because they can't.  This will fill their bellies up and their britches out.  This here is hilly billy soul food.

1 T. of extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
1 1/2- 2 lbs. of boneless/ skinless chicken breast filet's
1 lb. bag of washed and peeled fresh baby carrots
1 lb. bag of frozen whole kernel sweet corn
1 lb. bag of frozen cut green beans
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1 can of cream of celery soup
1 cup of milk
1/8 tsp. of dried crushed thyme
1/2 tsp. of dried parsley
1/8 tsp. of white pepper
2 rolls of 10-count refrigerated biscuits (it has to be the little biscuits, I have tried Grand's twice before and they end up raw underneath and burnt on top)

-Preheat your oven to 400*.  Heat up the e.v.o. in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken filet's.  Saute them for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until they have a nice light golden browning going on.  Toss them on a plate to cool before cutting into bite-sized pieces (or else you will lose all the juice's from them if you slice them up before they cool); set aside.  Meanwhile, you can steam your veggies.  Start with the carrots in a small deep saucepan with about 1 1/2" of water, cover them and let them simmer on low-medium heat for about 10 minutes.  Then add in your frozen corn and green beans (they will add more water into the pan as they begin to thaw).  Let all of them steam for about 5-10 more minutes or until they are all crisp-tender; strain and set aside.  Now, back to the pan that you sauteed the chicken in, bring it back up to a medium heat and add in the 2 canned soup's, the milk, thyme, parsley and the white pepper.  Stir well and bring to a quick boil.  Pour this into a large 2 qt. baking dish along with the chopped chicken and the strained veggies; mix well.  Place in the center of your oven, un-covered to bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and cover the top with the 20 biscuits.  Place back in the oven for another 15-18 minutes or until the tops of the biscuits have just begun to brown (careful though, those little suckers burn easily!).  Serves 6-8.  Enjoy!

Party Punch

This is it for me.  Every childhood party memory tastes like this punch in my mind.  From birthday parties to cookouts, everywhere we went, if there was punch, there was this.  Or at least a slight variation of this kind of a punch.  Some soda, fruit punch and sherbert.  A practically perfect in every way combination if you ask me, or my children, or anyone else in our family.  It was the last thing to be brought out to our Easter feast this year and it was the very first thing that we ran out of.  It is always a crowd pleaser and always a crowd 'wower'.  And I absolutely love it just as much now as I did back then.  Maybe even more with a bottle of coconut rum off to the side ;)

1- 2 liter of sprite
1- 2-liter of Hawaiian Fruit Punch
1 gallon of orange sherbert
1 gallon of raspberry sherbert

-Pour the soda and the fruit punch into a punch bowl or if you are like me and do not have one, a large mixing bowl.  Then just scoop in about 1/2 of the sherbert from each container (you can also use rainbow sherbert or any other flavor as well, this is just what my Paige chose for us to use).  Reserve the remaining sherbert in your freezer to add in as it melts (that way your punch is chilled throughout the party and the first cup is just as good as the last).  Serves many.  Enjoy!