Wednesday, June 29, 2011

To Die For Blueberry Muffins

***Don't you just absolutely love waking up on a weekend to the smell of something delicious baking in the oven?  A few days after my recent surgery, my sister - Suzanne - got up early and baked these A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. blueberry muffins.  Honestly, one of my favorite moments during the week my two sisters were staying with us was being woken up by the wonderfully scrumptious smell of these muffins slowly wafting into my bedroom.  That sort of thing just makes you feel super loved and taken care of.  :)

It's actually really funny, because when Suzanne was looking for a blueberry muffin recipe the night before, she picked this recipe before realizing I already had it on my blog.  I guess great minds think  It's not often that I post the same recipe twice, but these muffins are worth the extra attention.  They bake up nice and big, are packed with beautiful blueberries, and the cinnamon-sugar crumble on top makes these unforgettable. 

I bet you never thought a simple little muffin could be unforgettable, did you???  :)

If you've had a chance to read my last post, you might remember me telling you about Brad and Maranne's trip to the farmers' market.  Well, they came home with a gloriously large bucket of the prettiest blueberries you've ever seen.  If you've got some fresh blueberries around the house, this is a perfect way to showcase them!  There's no better time than now to take advantage of the season's best fruits.

Surprise someone you love and bake these muffins over the weekend.  Trust me, they won't sleep very late with the smell of these muffins in the house!

Bon Appetit!***

To Die For Blueberry Muffins
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.

Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.

To Make Crumb Topping: 
Mix together 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix with fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup - A Perfect Post-Surgery Meal!

***Folks, it's been quite a week around our house.  It all started last Friday when I had laparoscopic surgery.  Even though it was considered a pretty minor surgery, I was still REALLY nervous.  This was the first time that I had ever been put under general anesthesia, so I was extremely uncertain about that whole concept.  Luckily, I was blessed with an amazing team of doctors and nurses, and everything went perfectly.

The day after my surgery, Brad had a serious kidney stone attack.  He ended up in the ER later that day, and was eventually scheduled for surgery a few days later.  Fortunately, his surgery also went well.

So, after making it through two surgeries in one week, we are both recovering well...thank goodness!  I mean, WHAT ARE THE ODDS?  I still can't believe we both had surgery within a six day period.

I don't know what we would have done without my little sisters here to help us through this terrible week.  They were like 2 angels sent to us to help us through it all.  They cooked our meals, cleaned our house, and kept our spirits up.  Seriously - I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful family.

The first thing that Suzanne and Maranne made for dinner after my surgery was a huge pot of the most amazing Chicken Noodle Soup I've ever had.  Early that morning, Brad took Maranne to the big farmer's market in downtown Birmingham, while Suzanne stayed behind with me.  Maranne is a budding foodie herself, and she came home with a huge smile on her face and a bag full of goodies.  One of her "finds" was this big bunch of pretty carrots...

Maranne loved the farmer's market...
Now, most chicken soups are watery and bland, but this recipe is anything but boring!  It's packed with chunks of chicken, egg noodles, carrots, english peas, corn and SO much flavor!  One bite of this soup and my worries from the previous day started to dissipate. 

It's true what they say - Chicken Noodle Soup does wonders when you're sick, or in my case...recovering from surgery!

Bon Appetit!***

Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup
Source:  Maranne & Suzanne Gainous

    3 chicken breasts
    2 boxes of chicken stock
    3 large eggs
    1 stick of butter
    1 can of english peas   
    1 can of corn
    1 can cream of mushroom soup
    1 can cheddar soup
    3 large carrots
    3 stalks of celery   
    basil and oregano to taste
    salt and pepper to taste
     2 bay leaves
    1 12 oz. bag of egg noodles
    1 sweet onion
    1. Pour 2 boxes of chicken stock into a large pot along with 1 stick of butter, salt and pepper, 3 large eggs, and chicken breasts. Bring mixture to a boil.
    2. Once your eggs have boiled for approximately 10 minutes, remove from liquid and place in a bowl of cold water. Once cooled, you can peel and dice them. Set aside.
    3. Once chicken has cooked (approximately 45 minutes to an hour), remove breasts from the liquid and cut into one inch cubes.
    4. Add the cream of mushroom soup and cheddar soup to the liquid. Whisk to dissolve. Then add the corn, peas, boiled eggs, diced onion celery and carrots, basil, oregano, bay leaves, and chicken cubes to the broth.
    5. Let the mixture simmer for approximately thirty minutes.
    6. Once the carrots and celery have softened, add the egg noodles. Let the mixture boil lightly for about twenty minutes or until the noodles are cooked through. Be sure to stir frequently.
    7. Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches or bread.
    8. Enjoy! :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Fresh Cherry & Peach Tart

***I know it's officially summer when fresh, juicy peaches abound at all the farmers markets and groceries stores.  Piled high into perfectly peachy piles, I can't possibly pass by them without stowing a few away in my grocery cart.  This tart is a beautiful way to show off the season's prettiest fruit.  

When my sisters were recently in town, one of Maranne's main missions was to find a tart pan, so we made a trip to Williams-Sonoma so that she could purchase a pan like my own.  This recipe is the first one she tried when she got home, and the photo of her Blueberry-Peach Tart was so delicious-looking that I had to try it too!  

She emailed the recipe to me, and within minutes I was in the kitchen!  One of the only changes that I made was substituting the fresh blueberries for cherries.  Now, I don't have something against blueberries, in fact they are one of my favorites!  The truth is, I didn't have any fresh blueberries on-hand, so I had to use cherries instead.  I first made the tart with peaches only and decided that it needed some make it even prettier.  That's when the cherries got to make their debut tart appearance.

I also made a few minor changes to make the recipe a little healthier.  I used mainly whole wheat flour, fat-free cream cheese and light sour cream.  I was still really happy with my healthier version, and it was surprisingly satisfying and still packed with flavor.  

I did end up adding a good bit more flour than the recipe calls for (Maranne had this same problem).  The tart dough just seemed really wet and didn't come together with the given amount of 1/4 cup.  I simply added flour until I reached the correct consistency.

Thanks again, Maranne, for sharing such a great recipe!  :)

Bon Appetit!***

Fresh Cherry-Peach Tart
Adapted From: Blueberry-Peach Tart @

  • 1/2 cup pecan halves
  • 1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour (see my notes above)
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced peeled firm-ripe white or yellow peaches or thinly sliced nectarines
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh mint leaves (optional)
  • 1/2 cup cherries, rinsed, pitted and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons apricot jam
1. Spread pecans in a 10-inch tart pan with removable rim and bake in a 350° oven until golden in the center (break one to check), 8 to 12 minutes. Let cool.
2. In a food processor, whirl nuts, flour, brown sugar, and butter until fine crumbs form. Add vanilla and egg yolk; whirl until mixture comes together in a ball.
3. Press dough evenly over bottom and up sides of tart pan. Bake in a 350° oven until deep golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool.
4. In a bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese, sour cream, and powdered sugar until smooth. In another bowl, mix peaches with lemon juice.
5. Spread cream cheese mixture over bottom of pastry. Sprinkle mint on top, if using. Overlap peach slices in circles over cheese. Scatter cherries over peaches.
6. Put jam in a 1-cup glass measure and cook, uncovered, in a microwave oven at full power (100%) until melted, 30 to 45 seconds. Brush over fruit.
7. Serve, or chill uncovered up to 1 hour. Remove pan rim and cut tart into wedges.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fresh Orange, Coconut & Pecan Cake

***Every year, Brad's mom gives me a new "birthday cake challenge" for her birthday.  This year, she requested a cake that combined orange, pecan and coconut flavors.  It sounded like a perfectly decadent cake for these hot summer days, so I was excited for the new challenge.

I searched the internet and my collection of cookbooks for inspiration.  I came across THIS recipe over at "Your Homebased Mom" and thought it looked like the perfect place to start.  It even won a blue ribbon at a fair once, so it sounded really promising!

The only change that I made was to the icing.  The original recipe already included wonderful orange flavors, but the coconut and pecans still needed to make an appearance somehow.  I added both the shredded coconut and pecans directly into the icing recipe.   The pecans ended up really making this cake over-the-top delicious.  They brought the entire cake together, and the combination of flavors was incredible.

My sisters, Suzanne and Maranne, were in town to help me make this cake.  We had a lot of fun in the kitchen whipping this up.  We were wrestling with the idea of whether or not to color ALL of the frosting with orange food coloring, or to just leave it out.  Suzanne had the brilliant idea to only color the icing that would go in between the two layers.  This ended up being perfect, because there was a pretty orange burst of color when we cut into the cake.  I sure wish I had a photo of the cake after it was cut!  The fresh orange rind and pecan pieces also look gorgeous in the icing...they add pretty little flecks of color that make the cake irresistible looking!

You'll love this cake...The bright & sunny flavors are PERFECT for a bright & sunny summer day!

Bon Appetit!***

Fresh California Orange Cake

1/3 C butter
1/3 C shortening
2 tsp grated orange rind
1 1/2 C sugar
3 eggs
2 1/2 C sifted cake flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 C fresh orange juice less 2 Tbsp
2 Tbsp orange juice concentrate

Cream together butter, shortening and rind.  Very gradually add sugar, creaming until light.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Continue beating 5 minutes.

Sift together dry ingredients and add alternately with orange juice to creamed mixture.  Add in orange juice concentrate.  Beat only until smooth after each addition.

Bake in 2 greased and floured 9 inch round pans at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  Cool 10minutes on rack and then remove from pans and cool.

Fill and frost with Creamy Orange Frosting.

You can also add tinted orange coconut (recipe below), if you want to add a little extra decoration. 

Creamy Orange Frosting
***I doubled the recipe below, so that we'd have plenty of frosting***
1/2 C butter
1 3 oz. pkg cream cheese
1 pound powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 tsp grated orange rind
dash salt
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup pecan halves, cut into tiny pieces or processed in a food processor
orange food coloring (I only colored a portion of the icing for the middle of the cake)

Cream butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer.  Gradually beat in sugar alternately with orange juice beating until smooth.

Stir in orange rind, coconut, pecans and salt.  Add a drop or two of orange food coloring to tint a light orange, if desired.  Beat until creamy.

Tinted Orange Coconut (I left this out, and added coconut directly into the icing)
1 C flaked coconut
1 tsp orange juice
1 or 2 drops orange food coloring

Combine coconut, orange juice and food color.  Shake or stir with a fork.  Coconut should be lightly colored to match frosting.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Maranne's Chicken Pot Pie + A Debut Video!

***I don't know about you, but it seems like some of my favorite memories have always involved food somehow.  Whether it be baking up Christmas goodies with my Grandmother as a child, with a chair pushed up to the counter so that I could reach...Or walking into my GrannyRene's house and being greeted by the smell of fresh field peas and Chicken & Dumplings as soon as my feet crossed the threshold (I can smell it now!)...Or studying at the local coffee shop in high school, surrounded by my best friends and our favorite Frozen Mochas and pastries, to get us through the countless hours of cramming for exams...Or meeting and falling in love with my future husband at Joe Muggs Coffeehouse, while whipping up delicious cappuccinos and lattes for our caffeine-seeking customers...Or trying to learn how to cook as a young bride for said husband, spending many hours in the kitchen learning my way around souffles, dutch ovens, and the hundreds of ways to prepare a simple chicken breast...Or strolling down the Champs-Elysees in Paris with a crepe in one hand and a camera in the other...Or baking a special birthday cake and filling every single ounce of it with love for a family member...I could literally go on and on.

These memories mean so much to me, and that's why it makes me so incredibly happy to spend time in the kitchen with the people that I love.  I was thrilled when my little sisters, Suzanne and Maranne, decided to visit us over the Memorial Day holiday last weekend.   I can't even begin to tell you how much fun we had.  Of course, we spent a lot of time in the kitchen together, whipping up an amazing Orange, Coconut & Pecan Cake, along with Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon for dinner.  Seeing my sisters' faces light up as they tasted the bourguignon for the first time ever was priceless.  We also made Maranne's Famous Chicken Pot Pie, and I am very excited to share with you the recipe for this dish.

Not only am I excited about the recipe, but I am equally excited to present the very first video (or shall I call it our "funny attempt" at a video, haha) here on Sugar & Spice by Celeste!  Now be kind - We did this video all in one re-dos!  As you can see, we had fun with it, so hopefully it will bring you a few laughs.  :)

If you'd like to see more videos in the future, please feel free to leave a message in the comments section.  I'm trying to gather the courage to make more videos for the blog!

This recipe for Chicken Pot Pie is incredible.  It's comforting, creamy and flavorful, just like any good Chicken Pot Pie should be...only better!  It's fairly easy to make and as you can see, it's even better when you have your loved ones to help you!

Bon Appetit!***

That's Suzanne on the left and Maranne on the right...

Maranne cut the butter and cream cheese into the flour...

While Suzie diced the boiled egg.

In go the onions and carrots!

Maranne showing off the chicken...

And rolling out the dough!

Fresh out of the oven...Golden brown and bubbly!

Chicken Pot Pie = Heaven Recipe
Source:  Maranne Gainous
1 stick of butter
1 - 8 oz package of cream cheese
5 cups all-purpose flour
Whole Milk (Maranne does not measure this, but adds it a little at a time until the dough reaches the correct consistency)
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1 can cheddar cheese soup
1 can of cream of celery soup
1 can of english peas
half a onion
3 large carrots
3 large eggs
salt and pepper
1 cup of milk
3 large chicken breasts
2 boxes of chicken stock
1 stick of butter
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a large casserole dish.
2. Prepare the crust. In a large bowl, add the cold diced butter and cream cheese. Gradually add the flour. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter and cream cheese into the flour. Once you have formed small crumbs, begin adding the cold milk. Pour in a little bit at a time and begin working dough. You do not want your dough to be too sticky; however, don't panic if it is. Just add a little more flour until you get the right consistency. Wrap the finished dough in plastic wrap and place in your fridge.
3. Prep your ingredients by dicing your onion and cutting your carrots into about 1/2 inch disks.
4. Pour the chicken stock into a large pot on the stove. Add butter, salt & pepper, and chicken breasts. Also add in your carrots and whole eggs (you will boil your eggs right in the pot with the rest of the ingredients). Bring the mixture to a boil.
5. After 10 minutes, remove the eggs and place in cold water so that you can peel and dice them.
6. After 30 minutes, or until the carrots have softened, remove them from the stock.
7. Let the chicken continue to boil for approximately 30 minutes - 1 hour or until the juices run clear in the chicken and it's cooked through completely. Once cooked, remove from the stock and dice into one inch cubes.
        NOTE: If you are short on time, replace the 3 chicken breasts with 1 rotisserie chicken from your local grocer. However, be sure to cook the carrots before adding them to the filling to soften them.
8. While the chicken cooks, begin the filling. In a medium saucepan, combine the cream of chicken soup, cream of celery soup, and cheddar cheese soup. Then add 1 cup of milk. Use a whisk to combine. Then add the diced eggs, carrots, onion, english peas, and salt and pepper to taste. Let this mixture simmer over medium low heat for approximately 30 minutes. Be sure to constantly stir so that it will not burn.
9. Take your crust out of the fridge and cut it in half. Place the other half back into the refrigerator. On a floured surface, roll our your dough. Once you have rolled it out large enough to cover the bottom and sides of your dish, transfer the dough onto your baking dish. Form the dough to the sides of the pan and trim the excess.
10. Pour the filling mixture into the baking dish. Spread it out so that it evenly covers the bottom.
11. Make another layer by evenly placing the diced chicken on top of the filling.
12. Remove the other half of the dough from the fridge and place on a floured surface. Roll it out and place it on top of the filling and chicken. Trim the excess and crimp the edges to prevent the filling from bubbling out.
13. Using a sharp knife, cut slits into the top layer of the crust to allow steam to escape.
14. Place the pie into the oven and bake for approximately one hour or until the crust is a golden brown.
15. Serve by itself or with rice.

Me and Suzie :)
Goofing always...