Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Remembering a Classic Kitchen Disaster...

Every new cook has stories which will stick with them forever.  They aren't exactly things they're "proud" of, but they are stories that were either so noteworthy or so traumatic that they live on in their memories and teach them valuable lessons that carry on FAR into their cooking experiences.

For example, the first time I attempted to cook stir-fry for my husband, I tried to go exactly by the book.  I heated the oil until it was nice and hot, then added the chicken.  One mistake.  I heated the oil a little TOO nice and hot, and I dropped the chicken from too far up while my husband stood a little too close, eagerly awaiting his dinner.  The result?  Nearly 3rd degree burns on my overly-trusting husband's arm.  He bragged for weeks to his buddies about how his wife "scalded" him in the kitchen.  Oops.

Beyond all of my kitchen disasters, however, one distinct memory takes first place in my mind.  I even wrote a blog about it, back in the day.  That blog entry was the first inspiration for this entire blog.

So, just because I'm in a funny mood, I am going to copy and paste that blog entry below, purely for education purposes.

Without further ado, I bring you:

"Why You Should Never Put Pyrex on a Hot Stovetop: The Case of the Exploding Brownies"

Once upon a time, my roomate Kati, friend Kristen, and I decided we really had a hankerin' for some brownies.  So I decided to bake some.  I whipped up some batter, put it into my pyrax baking pan, threw them in the oven, and sat down to read my systematic theology.  While the brownies were baking, Kati (who hadn't eaten yet) made herself some dinner on the stove top.  She ate her dinner and sat down in the living room.  After awhile, we could smell that the brownies were probably near done, so I went into the kitchen and took them out of the oven, setting them on the stove top to let them cool.  However, I was unaware that my dear, sweet roomie had forgotten to turn off the stove when she was done making her broccoli, and after a few minutes, Kati remarked, "Hon, did you take the brownies out of the oven yet?  It smells like something's burning." 

"Yes," I replied, "I put them on the stove top to cool."

Suddenly, Kati jumped up.  "Oh NO!  The Brownies!!"  She ran into the kitchen and suddenly there was a scream and a crash.  I ran in to see this sight:

Oh no!!!

The stove...

And the floor!!!  Poor brownies!!  :(

Kati had picked up the glass pan of brownies off of the burning stove top just in time for the cool air to cause some sort of reaction that made the the glass pan (and the brownies) explode and fly all over the kitchen.  The brownies were literally sizzling on the floor, countertop, and stovetop.  We found glass everywhere!  We could not stop laughing as we cleaned up the mess, and needless to say, not much studying got done last night... after all, there was a second batch of brownies to make!  Oh well... that's what happens when you live in Jenkins 2T.

The moral of the story:  Well, I think you can figure it out.  :)


Now, recently, someone told me that my story could not possibly be true, after all, pyrex was indestructable.  So I set out on a mission and found this website:


May my cooking mayhem serve as a lesson to all non-domestic housewives everywhere.  Beware of exploding pyrex!!  :D

(The best part of the story is perhaps that my roommates later would gift me with a set of pyrex bakeware and a box of brownie mix as a bridal shower gift!)

Keeping the Kitchen Safe,
Heather  :)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Be Our Guest!!

Exciting news....  We have houseguests this weekend!!!

Many of you know that my husband and I recently moved across the country, leaving our beloved hometown, family, and friends behind.  Although this has been a really difficult transition for us, we are so blessed that many of our family and friends have promised to visit!!  (And, we have an open invitation - family and friends, VISIT US!!!)

Luckily, our new home has a GUEST ROOM!!  :D

I was really excited about the prospect of a guest room initially, and as a people-person, was thrilled at the prospect of having friends come to visit.  But then one day I realized that having guests meant...

I have to play HOSTESS!!  :/

Now, let me tell you about my best friend Becky.  Becky was born to parents who own a bed and breakfast.  Becky can cook and clean and do woodworking and sewing AND play the guitar - Becky is AMAZING.  Growing up, her friends called her Becky-home-eckie, and it's not hard to see why.

Becky has the gift of hospitality.

I do not.

You see, it doesn't come easily for me to have people in my home.  I love to cook and have a clean house, and I love inviting people into my life, but I don't think of the things like offering them a cup of tea or making sure they have matching towels and a huge breakfast waiting when they wake up in the morning.  I am NOT one of those people whom, after leaving my home, you feel like you've been treated like a queen.  I'm more of the "Make yourself at home - here's the fridge, here's the bathroom, and let's go have fun" type.  So, while I LOVE having people visit me, the idea of having HOUSE-GUESTS kind of stressed me out a little bit.

On the other hand, I love the idea of making people feel really important and welcome and comfortable in my home.  I guess what I'm trying to say (with way too many words) is, it doesn't come easily to me.  I'm a work in progress.

However, about a year or so ago, I was visiting a friend of mine and discovered a very small thing that made me feel EXTREMELY welcome in her home without the full bed and breakfast treatment.  It was a small basket sitting on the nightstand with a few toiletries in it and a note that said, "if you need it, take it.  be our guest."  And guess what?  I had forgotten toothpaste.  But I didn't have to have grungy teeth or ask my friend to borrow hers.  I could simply and quietly take the toothpaste in the guest basket.  BRILLIANT!

So, the first thing I did when we started putting together our little guest room was... you got it!  Buy a little basket!!  Then I raided the toiletries section at Walmart and... TAH-DAH!!!

Isn't it SO CUTE!?!?  And it was such a SIMPLE thing to throw together, but it's definitely a practical way to welcome people into our home!!  (I LIVE for practicality!!)

All you need to do this yourself is a small basket, and then a bunch of travel-sized toiletries. I used toothbrushes, toothpaste, body wash, hairspray, feminine products, shampoo, conditioner, downy wrinkle release, razors, and deodorant!   Finish it off with a guest book and some wash cloths and you have a guest basket for your own guest room!! 

All that to say, I may not have the "gift" of hospitality like my best friend Becky, but I have a comfy, welcoming guest room and a kitchen with enough cereal and milk to go around.  You're welcome to be our guest!!

Have a great weekend,

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Shannon Cookie

No matter how domestic (or NON-domestic) the wife may be, I think just about every wife has found that one cookie recipe that will make her husband smile... something to whip up for him after a long day at work or to pack in his lunch just to say "I was thinking about you."

My husband, Shannon, grew up LOVING his mom's chocolate chip cookies, and so I honestly thought I was out of luck in finding a cookie that my husband would love quite as much as he loves mom's.  But, it wasn't long before I discovered that a bit of personalization goes a long way.

I made up this recipe by combining a chocolate chip cookie, oatmeal cookie, and throwing in my husband's favorite candy - peanut butter mnm's!  They are gooey and chewy and chocolatey and good... enjoy!

The Shannon Cookie


1 cup butter, softened  (NOT melted!!  If you keep your butter in the fridge, soften it by microwaving for 15-20 seconds, watching carefully to make sure it doesn't melt!!  Melted butter = flat, yucky cookies!!)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups quick cooking oats
1 large bag peanut butter mnm's (you know, as many as you wanna throw in there).  :)
1 cup chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees
2.  In a large bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth (use your hand mixer or KitchenAid!).  Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla.  Combine flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the creamed sugar mixture until just blended.
3.  Mix in the oatmeal using a large spoon or spatula.  Then add the chocolate chips and peanut butter mnm's!
4.  Refrigerate cookie dough (covered) until cool and firm; about 15 minutes.***
5.  Bake for 10-12 minutes in preheated oven.  Allow cookies to cool ON baking sheet.
6.  Serve warm with a glass of milk for best reaction.  :)

***Step #4 is an especially important tip!!  I struggled for awhile with my cookies coming out flat and hard.... making sure the dough is firm and cool really helps with this - and it works with any cookie recipe!!

Do you have any killer husband cookie recipes???  :)  I'd love to try them out!!  :D

I'm making these cookies today and taking them to the cast of "Jekyll & Hyde" to say thanks for welcoming me to our little theater family!!  :)  Good luck tonight, guys!!

Till next time,

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cornbread... the way it SHOULD be!

Since moving to the south, I have discovered something that I find to be quite disturbing...

Southerners like their cornbread... savory?

I have had several conversations with my new southern friends and have discovered that most in this area prefer cornbread to be salty rather than sweet... they prefer things like cheese or jalepenos to season their bread.  My response... What???

I'm sorry for all you southerners out there, but midwesterners know how to do cornbread right.  I grew up in a home where a staple food (for my father, at least) was a dish of cornbread, beans, and maple syrup.  While I've never quite been able to stomach the beans aspect of that, I would much prefer to add a bit of sugar to my cornbread or top it with a slab of butter and a touch of honey... oh yum.

My one issue with cornbread overall, though, is that it is often so dry.  That's why I LOVE this next recipe I discovered on allrecipes.com.  It is a slightly sweet cornbread, but is also delightfully moist and spongey - almost cake-like!  All in all, whether you're from Wisconsin or you're from Mississippi, you're bound to love this cornbread recipe...  :)

1 (8 ounce) package corn bread muffin mix (just get the cheap stuff!  it doesn't matter!)
1/3 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 (8 ounce) can cream corn
1/2 cup white sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x13 inch pan (I often use my cast iron skillet, though!)
2.  Mix all of the ingredients and pour into pan.
3.  Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean.

This recipe is SOOOOOOOO easy, but a real crowd-pleaser!  Eat your heart out, salty cornbread!!

Y'all come back now!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Gone Bananas!! :D

I love baking with bananas!

No really, I love it - things made with bananas are often more moist, naturally sweet, and offer texture to baked goods.  BUT - baking with bananas requires patience - you have to WAIT for your bananas to ripen before you bake with them.  They need a nice little brown color in order to mash and bake JUST right.  

Well, unfortunately for me, my husband likes EATING bananas as much if not more than I like baking with bananas!  Bananas don't last more than three or four days in my house (no matter how many I buy!) without being rapidly consumed.  Thus, I rarely get to bake with my bananas!

However, yesterday while at Ingles, I discovered the "Ripe Banana Bag"... I'm sure it's always been there, but it was a paper sack with over 10 bananas in it - already ripened to baking perfection - and for $1.49!!!

Luckily, I had a party to go to for inspiration, so I decided to make one of my favorite "back pocket" recipes - chocolate chip banana bread!

I use a banana bread recipe from allrecipes.com, but changed a few things based on past experience (increased the cooking temperature and length of baking, replaced butter with applesauce, and added chocolate chips for my own variation (because what's better than chocolate chip banana bread?).  What I love about this recipe is the secret ingredient - SOUR CREAM.  It really adds moisture and makes this the BEST banana bread ever!!  ENJOY!!  :D

(As you're looking at the ingredient list and thinking, "HOLY COW THAT'S A LOT OF SUGAR!" realize that it makes 4 loaves of bread...)

1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup butter (although last night, I used applesauce instead, and it worked well!!)
3 cups sugar
3 eggs
6 ripe bananas, smashed (fun job!)
1 (16 ounce) container sour cream (I used light sour cream to cut back on fat)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used half white/half wheat flour)
1 bag mini chocolate chips (semi sweet or milk chocolate - whatever you prefer)

1.  Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease four loaf pans (I only own 1 loaf pan, so I made 1 loaf of bread and LOTS of muffins, and a heart-shaped cake pan for my hubby).
2.  In a small bowl, stir 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon - dust pans lightly with cinnamon sugar mixture.
3.  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Mix in eggs, mashed bananas, sour cream, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Mix in salt, baking soda, and flour.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Divide into prepared pans.
4.  If baking in a loaf pan, bake for 1 hour 10 minutes (approximately) or until a toothpick comes out clean.  If using muffin tins or other small baking pans, you will have to adjust the baking time accordingly (I think my muffins took about 35 minutes or so.)

Now, an important tip - use MINI chocolate chips - regular sized chocolate chips are too heavy and will sink to the bottom of the batter, creating a chocolate candy crust rather than delicious chocolately goodness throughout.  :)

Happy Baking - GO BANANAS!!  :D