cobbler-ing with the ‘rents

Summer is for fresh fruits and cobblers. This Southern girl will never feel like a Northern zip code means changing anything about that. This weekend, thankfully I was able to get my fill.

My parents went this past week and picked some fresh peaches at a spot in New Jersey. Peaches from the local store – or, better yet, local market – works as well.

The best thing about cobbler is it is incredibly easy. You don’t need to spend a ton of time perfectly rolling out or chilling your crust layer. Nope. Skip that silliness. Cobbler has you covered. And the end result is equally tasty.

My mom found this easy recipe from Southern Living. The longest part of this prep time was peeling and slicing up the peaches (you want to make sure to cut out any bad spots and, of course, the tougher spots leading up to and including the pit). Once that was ready to go, the rest went quickly.

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 cups fresh peach slices
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Ground cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)

First, melt the butter in a 13″ x 9″ baking dish.

Separately, mix up the batter by combining the flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt and then adding the milk. You will want to stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Then pour batter over butter, but do not stir.


Finally, bring the remaining 1 cup sugar, peach slices, and lemon juice to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Then pour over the batter (again, do not stir). You can then sprinkle with cinnamon if you want (or, as we chose to do, put a lot on top!).


Bake at 375° for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve cobbler warm or cool.



(If this post had its own soundtrack, it would be this, since I couldn’t stop singing it on Sunday while we baked this.)


3 ingredient wonder: eggnog pancakes

I’ve been looking forward to trying eggnog pancakes for some time and figured New Year’s Day was a perfect time to make them. I saw this recipe on The Daily Meal that gave me the idea. All you need is Bisquick, eggnog, and nutmeg. It really is that simple.


I recommend using whole nutmegs and grating to get the best flavor. I can’t get enough of freshly ground nutmeg. I went very much overboard on the nutmeg, which made the pancakes, IMHO. I found the eggnog flavor a bit subtle for my taste. I left the batter on the thicker side. Next time, I would keep adding eggnog to a thinner consistency – just to maximize the eggnog flavor.


Overall though, a fabulous treat. Now that I’ve realized how easy this is to do, I look forward to trying out some other flavor combos since Bisquick is such a quick and easy base. Happy 2015!

family traditions: homemade cinnamon rolls

Typically I get to go home to Alabama once a year for Christmas. That means I naturally think of home now in the context of Christmas foods, holiday themed decor, and colder temps, all capped off with a soundtrack of carols and the like. When I took T to Alabama for his first visit, cinnamon rolls had to be part of the experience, Christmas or not (served along with homemade chili, naturally).

The biggest “ingredient” this recipe requires? Time. All of your time. Special thanks to mom for spending so much time year after year putting these together. It did not go unappreciated.


  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115°)
  • 2 cups lukewarm milk (scalded then cooled)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil or shortening
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg
  • 5-6 cups unbleached flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in the milk, 1/2 cup sugar, oil, baking powder, salt, egg, and 2-3 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth – ideally using a Kitchenaid mixer with the dough hook attachment. Mix in enough flour for it to start to stick to the hook (or stick to the spoon, if you are mixing by hand), likely somewhere between 3-4 of the 5-6 cups of flour.

If you have mixed by hand, turn dough onto a a well-floured surface (can cover your counter with wax paper). Knead until smooth and elastic. If you mixed with a Kitchenaid, you can spoon the dough into a large, greased bowl. Cover and let it rise in a warm place until double, about 1 1/2 hours. Dough is ready if you see an indentation after you touch it.

Grease two oblong pans, 13×9 inches. Punch down the dough and divide in half. Roll one half into a rectangle, measuring dimensions of 12×10 inches. Spread with half of the butter. Mix 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the rectangle.

Roll up, starting with the wider side. Pinch the edge of the dough into the roll to seal. Stretch the roll to make it even.

Slice into 12 slices. Place them a bit apart in one pan. Repeat with the second rectangle of dough.

You can cover with aluminum foil for and place in the refrigerator for 12 hours (to no longer than 48 hours) and then bake. If you want to bake the same day, place the pans in a warm place until the dough rises to double, around 30 minutes. Pro-tip courtesy of Mama Ruth: cover with towels and put a kettle of hot water on. It’ll make the yeast plump up perfectly.

Preheat oven to 350°. Remove foil from pans (if you’ve refrigerated overnight). Bake until golden for 20-22 minutes (longer if refrigerated).

Frost prior to serving. A simple recipe for frosting is mixing 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until smooth. I personally am a bit more generous with icing, so the above does not make enough for the two pans of 24 rolls. I recommend adding a small bit of milk to each spoonful of powdered sugar to make as much as you need to ice. Vanilla extract is a nice addition – another great option is almond extract.

Hope you enjoy them as much as my family has over the years.

seeing red – carpets, chili, & velvet

I love awards shows. I do. Yes, they drone on and on and sometimes, maybe get to be a bit long. And sometimes the hosts disappoint. But you know what doesn’t disappoint? The dresses. Oh the dresses. Whereas the Oscars tend to lean towards the “fancy fancy”, the Globes tend to sprinkle in some crazier options for attire. Then there’s the general unexpected, like celebrities tripping and falling. As someone who often does so herself at inopportune times, I live for seeing stuff like that. It makes me feel better.

I had a few friends over for a night of red to line up with the red carpet. There was (mostly) red wine, red meat (chili), and red velvet cupcakes. I thought chili would be a perfect simple awards show meal – filling but not so labor intensive that I wouldn’t be able to sit down and hang out with everyone myself. Thankfully it didn’t disappoint.

You can easily replicate the mix of spices that I usually buy in a packet, but I’ll admit I usually just buy it because it makes whipping this up even easier and possible to do so on varying levels of spiciness. I’ve been using the McCormick brand mix, and opting for some alterations – the simple one that looks like this:


  • 1 spice pack chili mix
  • 1 pound ground beef (can substitute turkey)
  • 1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 14.5 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1 jalapeño (diced) – optional
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese – optional
  • Crackers – optional

First, brown the ground beef. Drain. Separately, sauté the diced onions. Incorporate the onions in with the beef, adding the spice mix, both cans of tomatoes, and jalapeños (optional). I suggest dipping in a spoon and testing the spice level. If it’s not enough, you can add in more chili powder or even more jalapeños. Simmer for 10 minutes. Serve as preferred. I love sharp cheddar cheese and a smattering of crackers. Sour cream also makes for a fun addition.

Looking for a different kind of chili? Check out my prior post on pumpkin turkey chili.

On a related topic, which Golden Globe winner do you want to see first? American Hustle, August Osage County, and Dallas Buyers Club are on my list.

brown butter apple pie-tart

When we went apple picking at Harbes Farms, I thought 1/4 peck didn’t sound like it was really that many apples. Granted, I’m working with double that but still, I’ve been surprised just how few apples most recipes require and how many, at this point, I still have left! Of course, going apple picking again this past weekend in Vermont didn’t help with the apple situation, but that’s another story.

A couple weeks ago, I decided to make an apple tart with more of these apples for date night. It seemed perfect timing that I received a great looking recipe from Tasting Table for a Brown Butter Apple Tart. Since I actually don’t have a tart pan and didn’t want to be the grand hold up on dinner, I ended up simplifying, skipping making my own crust and using a crust from the store. It’s hard to feel guilty about this shortcut when your store carries crusts made entirely from Nilla Wafers.


  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 vanilla bean (halved lengthwise, scrapping out the seeds from the pod with the tip of a knife)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 semi-tart apples

First, you’ll need to make the filling. To do so, you’ll whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar. Separately, heat the sticks of butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Once the butter is melted, add in the scraped vanilla seeds as well as the vanilla bean pod. Keep stirring the mixture over the heat until the butter foam begins to subside and turns a deep golden color (rougly 5 minutes).

Remove the saucepan fromt he heat and allow it to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the pod halves and then whisk the butter into the original egg-sugar mixture. (Full disclosure: I accidentally didn’t keep the egg/sugar separate from the butter/vanilla bean. While I didn’t get quite the same brown butter effect, I kept going and the tart was quite good. If you mess up something, keep on going!)

Then whisk in the flour and salt, whisking until the mixture is smooth.

Next, you’ll need to cut the 3 apples into rings. The best apples to use are something like Granny Smith, Braeburn, or Pink Lady. The apples need to be peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (ideally into ¼-inch thick rings). I can only assume this would be infinitely easier if you happened to own an apple corer. I, naturally, do not. No big deal, right? Wrong. This made coring and slicing the apples a bit more difficult. Arrange the sliced apples into a an overlapping concentric circle. Add a few apple at the center as well. I’ll admit that when I did this I looked at the apples, neatly situated in the pie crust, and assumed this was going to be one ugly pie-tart.

But fret not. The filling magically filled in the gaps and covered over the non-uniformly sliced apples. Finally, you’ll slowly pour the prepared filling over the sliced apple. Since the filling is a bit thick, allow time for it to make its way through the spaces between the apple slices to make sure you don’t overflow. Stop once the filling reaches ¼-inch from the top of the crust.

Place the pie-tart on a baking sheet in the oven, baking until the colof of the apples is deep golden-brown. Make sure the center of the pie is also set and that the filling does not move when the pie is jostled. This should take around 1 hour. Once it is done, remove the baking sheet and the pie-tart from the oven, transferring it to a surface to cool for 2 hours. It’s lovely served with simple vanilla bean ice cream.


homemade apple butter and harbes farm

It’s become tradition the last four years that it’s not truly fall until a trip to Long Island happens – four friends escaping the city for a day of  fall fun. There’s brunch, cider donuts, tastings at North Fork wineries, and a corn maze. This year though, the trip came early enough that there was a new option – apple picking.

I can’t recall ever having been, though I’ve long had a fondness for apple season (likely due to it coinciding with my birth month, which I believe every kid automatically loves). I’ll admit, from the setup, I wasn’t sure how fun it would be for us adults. We arrived at Harbes Farm and were surrounded by strollers and children, one who thought it was funny and cute somehow to reach up and grab my rear as we waited in the super long ride to be taken around and into the orchard.

The line managed to move relatively quickly. We were set loose into our permissible rows (only certain rows are opened at a given time in an attempt to ensure the orchard is not completely ravaged). Thankfully, they opened an additional row while we were there as the rows up to that point were bare, with almost all of the apples decorating the floor.

We ended up with roughly 16 apples. So many apples to put to use! The first thing on my “to make” list was a no-brainer: apple butter. Growing up, this was an annual thing in our house. Homemade is in fact way better than anything you can buy in the store. My parents would make a batch, freeze it into smaller containers, which we’d then thaw and use over time. It lasts quite well and it’s perfect with fresh buttermilk biscuits.


  • 6 pounds of tart apples
  • 4 cups of cider or apple juice (plus extra, in case – see below*)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

I don’t have an apple corer, so I started by peeling and cutting the apples into slices. The original recipe I used (same my parents have used) intended to make the apple butter extremely smooth. I prefer it a bit chunky, highlighting the fresh flavor of the apples, so I prefer this rendition. Cook the apples in the juice (I used apple juice) until they are soft. This will take around 30 minutes.

Then boil for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point, you’ll need to stir in the sugar and the spices.

Cook and stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Reduce to a gentle boil, stirring freqently until you reach the desired thickness.  The recipe claims this should be around an hour, but I found this to be much less as I halved the recipe.

The apple butter will thicken once it cools, so take the pot off of the heat and watch as it cools. *If it thickens too much, use additional apple juice to thin it out, adding and stirring in gradually. Allow to fully cool before you can or preserve (I freeze mine in small containers, which I then heat up when I wish to consume).

Group & action shot courtesy of Joey Pasion.

homemade oatmeal cream pies

I had sinus surgery last week (fun times!) so I’ve been enjoying a pretty low-key several of days. Yesterday my sister and her boyfriend came over along with my boyfriend and my mom made the basic meatball from The Meatball Shop’s cookbook. Really, it was like the restaurant inside your own home – amazing. So good. We ate meatballs and polenta and watched the Alabama football game (Roll Tide!) and relaxed. I decided it was a good time to pick something and put my new KitchenAid mixer to work. Isn’t she pretty?

I was looking at cakes and cupcakes, but wasn’t feeling inspired. I then decided what I really wanted was oatmeal cream pies! Like the Little Debbie variety, but homemade (of course). I started looking through recipes online. There weren’t too many varieties. Some were gluten free. Some were making odd substitutions to make it super healthy (and I didn’t want to have to buy all of those additional ingredients that one required – too much money and hassle). Several also used marshmallow cream, which I need to look at the Little Debbie box, but that just didn’t sound right to me.

I ended up going with Martha Stewart’s recipe, because Martha usually knows best. The recipe was quite simple, although I always know going in that even though Martha says it’ll only take 30 minutes, that’s never the case for me.


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsulfured molasses
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not the quick-cooking variety)
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins (I omitted this)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. In a separate large bowl, beat butter, brown and granulated sugars, and molasses on high with an electric mixer, scraping down bowl, until light and fluffy (about 4 minutes). Then add the vanilla and beat until combined. Beat in eggs, one at a time. You’ll need to scrape down the bowl after each addition.

Next with mixer on low, add the flour mixture and beat just until combined. Using a rubber spatula, stir in oats (and raisins, if you chose to add them). Drop dough in 2-tablespoonful mounds, 2 inches apart, onto two baking sheets. I actually had to do in two batches since it ended up being too many for two baking sheets. Crowding them will squish your cookies a bit, and may make them take longer to bake. Bake until cookies are just set at edges and slightly soft in middle, about 11 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cookies cool on sheets for around 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool completely.

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar with a mixer until light for around 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Use a small spatula to spread the filling on the flat (bottom) side of half the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies.

I thought these came out quite good! Recipe claimed it would yield 13 and I ended up with 12, so quite close to what I was expecting. These were close to the Little Debbie originals. The cookies were nice and fluffy. The filling is slightly different from the originals though (but tasty in its own way). I’d be curious to try out some of the other fillings to use with these cookies, but I think this cookie recipe is just about perfect!

And after a day of cooking and all this company, Dixie was ready to call it a day.