Sunday, April 29, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake with Toasted Pecan Buttermilk Biscuits + My 2nd Fox News Appearance!

Glorious strawberries are coming into season here in Alabama, and what better way to celebrate than with a decadently delicious Strawberry Shortcake??  But, not just any old Strawberry Shortcake, my friends.  I've created a recipe for Toasted Pecan Buttermilk Biscuits that make such an absolutely perfect addition to the traditional strawberry shortcake recipe. 

And guess what?  I recently got to share this recipe on a Good Day Alabama cooking segment on Fox 6 News here in Birmingham, which is scheduled to air on Monday morning, April 30th!   I couldn't be more excited to share this experience and recipe with you all.  I'll update this post with a link to the video as soon as it's ready!

I'm particularly proud of the Toasted Pecan Buttermilk Biscuit recipe.  I wanted to find a way to kick things up a notch when it came to regular ole' buttermilk biscuits.  Toasted pecans add such an incredible flavor.  And the beautiful thing is, is that these biscuits are equally delicious served with dinner, alongside your favorite jam and butter.

As a southern gal, I remember helping my grandmother make biscuits when I was just knee-high to a grasshopper.  :)  You might remember some of my earlier stories about standing on a chair next to the kitchen counter with her, with one of my granddaddy's undershirts on as my "apron" so my clothes wouldn't get dirty.  I'd use an upside-down sweet tea glass as a biscuit cutter.  Oh, the memories.  My grandmother was such a special lady....I sure do miss her.

Homemade biscuits are so easy to make, especially when using a food processor as I'll show you in this recipe.  Of course, you can still use a trusty pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour, but a food processor does a great job if you're in a hurry.  So often, biscuits are eaten out of a can, but isn't it so wonderful to bite into a made-from-scratch biscuit that only takes a few minutes to whip together?  So, if you have a little "helper" of your own, get into the kitchen and make some fun memories together!  

Bon Appetit!

Toasted Pecan Buttermilk Biscuits

 So happy that my sweet sisters, Maranne and Suzanne, and my awesome hubby were all there to cheer me on!  (That's Brad behind the camera)  :-)

Setting up...almost show time!

Maranne shows off her lovely strawberry arranging skills...

Looking yummy!

And here we go!!!

Strawberry Shortcake with Toasted Pecan Buttermilk Biscuits


For the Toasted Pecan Biscuits:
2 cups White Lily all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup toasted, minced pecans
6 tbsp COLD butter, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup - 1 cup cold buttermilk

For the Strawberries:
2 lbs. fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
4 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp light brown sugar

For the Whipped Cream:
2 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp granulated sugar


To Prepare the Pecans:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place a heaping 1/4 cup of pecans on a cookie sheet in a single layer.  Bake in the oven for 6-7 minutes, until toasted and fragrant.

Remove from the oven and allow pecans to cool completely before proceeding.  If in a hurry, place the pecans in the refrigerator to speed up the cooling process.

Once pecans have cooled completely, place them in the bowl of a food processor, along with 2 tsp of all-purpose flour.  Pulse several times until pecans are finely minced into tiny pieces.  

1.  When pulsing pecans, use short, quick pulses.  This, along with the addition of 2 tsp of flour, will help keep the mixture from becoming pecan paste while processing.
2.  Be sure to prepare the pecans well in advance.  You'll need to allow plenty of time for them to cool before making the biscuits.

To Prepare the Strawberry Filling:
Place the sliced strawberries in a large bowl.  Sprinkle 4 tbsp of granulated sugar, plus 2 tbsp of light brown sugar over the strawberries and mix well.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes - 1 hour.  The sugar will draw out the natural juices of the strawberries and create a syrup.

To Make the Biscuits:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with a silicon baking mat or parchment paper.

Add the White Lily flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1/4 cup minced pecans to the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse 1 - 2 times to thoroughly mix the ingredients.

Next, add the cubes of cold butter to the bowl and pulse the mixture about 7 times.  The trick here is to not over-process the dough and to use short, quick pulses.  You want to have small pieces of butter, about the size of peas.

Working quickly, transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.  Add the buttermilk and stir lightly just until most of the flour is incorporated (Remember - Don't over-work the dough!).  At this point, turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead the dough very, very gently, just until it comes together.

Pat the dough into a 1-inch thick circle, and cut the biscuits using a sharp biscuit-cutter.  Take the leftover dough and very, very lightly press it into another 1 inch circle, repeating the process until all dough has been used (about 6 large biscuits).

Place the biscuits on the cookie sheet so that they are touching each other.  Bake in the 450 degree preheated oven for 12-14 minutes until risen and golden brown.  

For the Whipped Cream:
While the biscuits are baking, place 2 cups of heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment.  Add 2 tbsp. of granulated sugar and whip on medium-high speed. 

To Assemble:
Cut a biscuit in half using a fork.  Spoon the desired amount of strawberry filling onto the biscuit, along with freshly whipped cream.  Place the top of the biscuit onto the top of the dessert, and garnish with additional whipped cream and a few extra strawberries.


Tips for Perfect, High-Rising Buttermilk Biscuits:
  1. Don't over-work the dough.
  2. Work quickly, keeping the ingredients cold.
  3. Be sure to use a southern flour, like White Lily.  Southern flours are made from soft winter wheat, so they have a much lower protein content than other flours.  That means lighter, fluffier, and more tender biscuits!
  4. Toast the pecans far enough in advance so that they have plenty of time to cool before you start.  
  5. It's very important that you use fresh baking powder and baking soda.  These leavening agents do not stay fresh forever and as they age, they lose their ability to do their job, which is making those biscuits rise! 
  6. Use COLD butter, because once that cold butter hits the hot oven, it will create steam and cause the biscuits to rise higher.   
  7. Press straight down when cutting the biscuits.  Don't turn the cutter as you press down!  This will seal the edges and keep the biscuits from rising high.
  8. Place the biscuits on the cookie sheet so that they are touching each other, which is said to help them rise higher. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

GIVEAWAY - Win a 5 lb. Food Scale from OXO!

Boy was I excited when I was selected to participate in the OXO Blogger Outreach Program recently.  As part of the program, they sent me one 5 lb. Food Scale with Pull-Out Display to put through its paces, and a second one to giveaway to one lucky reader!!!

A food scale is one of those things that I've been wanting to purchase for a while now, but for some reason or another just haven't gotten around to it.    They come in handy in the kitchen in so many situations.

There are several things that I love about this particular OXO scale:

1.  It's small, slim and doesn't take up a lot of room in my kitchen. This is great, because cabinet space real estate is getting harder and harder to come by around here!
2.  The digital display is easy to read, with large numbers and an illuminated background.
3.  If you're measuring something in a large bowl, you can pull out the display so that you can still see it.  This is a really great feature and avoids large objects covering the numbers.
4.  There's a handy little capacity indicator on the display, which lets you know when you're getting close to the maximum weight the scale will allow.

As far as cons go, I haven't found many.  If I'm just being VERY picky, I would say that the pull-out display doesn't always just snap right back into place.   Although, this hasn't been a problem for me.  Again, that's just if you want me to be picky!

So, how do you win this fabulous scale?  It's easy!

How to  Enter:
Simply leave a comment on this post, which answers the following question:

What seasonal veggie or fruit are you most excited to cook with this summer?

Also, for extra chances to win, simply do the following and leave additional comments letting me know that you did:
The Rules:
  • Entries must be submitted by midnight (CST time) on Friday, May 4th. 
  • A winner will be picked at random (using and will be announced on Saturday, May 5th.
  • Please make sure you include your name and email address so that I will have a way to contact you if you win...especially if you leave a comment using the "Anonymous" option.
  • At this time, the contest is open to US residents only.
Good Luck!  :)

Note:  OXO provided this food scale free of charge, however, I do want to note that all opinions in this post are completely my own. 

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Shrimp with Parmigiano Reggiano Grits & Tomatoes - Virginia Willis

One can never, ever go wrong when combining the creamy goodness of southern grits with plump and juicy shrimp.  Seriously...It just might be one of the greatest food combinations there is.  I've blogged about Shrimp & Grits before HERE.  Brad is crazy about the dish, so I'm always on the look-out for new versions to try.  When I came across this recipe by the lovely and talented Virginia Willis, I immediately put it on my "To-Make" list.

I had the pleasure of meeting and spending some time with Virginia at Food Blog South in January of this year.  What an amazing lady!  Her recipe for Shrimp & Grits is quite superb and is a decidedly dressed up version of the classic dish.  She kicks things up a notch with fresh herbs, whole tomatoes and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.   She's also lightened the dish with the help of low fat milk and olive oil instead of cream and butter.

Perfection on a plate.

And guess what - Virginia prepared this dish in a demo at the Paris Cookbook Fair earlier this year.  That's right - Shrimp & Grits in Paris.  Yes, Please!!!

Want the recipe?  You can find it HERE over on Virginia's blog.

Or, better yet...Buy the cookbook!
Bon App├ętit, Y’all: Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking by Virginia Willis

Bon Appetit, my friends! 

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Baked Ziti with Turkey, Mushrooms & Bell Pepper

Is a big plate of hearty, delicious pasta ever a bad thing?  

I think not! 

While shopping the aisles the other day at the grocery store, Brad said, "Baked Ziti sure would be good for dinner soon."  Baked Ziti?  That DID sound yummy.  And wouldn't you know it...We made our way to the pasta aisle and the boxes of Ziti Rigati were buy one get one free.  It was pasta-fate...If there is such a thing.

To make the dish a little healthier, we decided ground turkey would be a good substitute for ground beef.  I love cooking with ground turkey lately.  It tastes great and is indeed a much healthier option.  That's a no-brainer, if you ask me.

This dish comes together in no time.  I added bell pepper, onion and mushrooms to the turkey as it cooked.  These veggies added a nice, fresh flavor.  As for the marinara sauce, just use your favorite brand.  I happened to buy Barilla.  Or, if you're feeling extra ambitious, you can even make your own.

Baked Ziti is wonderful because it's great the next night for left-overs.  I simply add a few tablespoons of water to a large saucepan, add however much pasta I need, and slowly reheat, with the lid on and stirring often.  I hear it also freezes well, too.

Bon Appetit!

Before going into the oven...


Baked Ziti with Turkey, Mushrooms & Bell Pepper
Source:  My original recipe

1 lb. ziti rigati pasta
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb ground turkey
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
8 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp. garlic powder
24 oz. jar marinara sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously, and drizzle with 1 tbsp of the olive oil.  Add the pasta, reducing the heat to medium-high and cook until al dente, tender but still slightly firm. Drain.

Drizzle the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil into the bottom of a second large pot or dutch oven.  Add the turkey and cook for 5 minutes.  Next, add the bell pepper, onion, mushrooms and garlic powder.  Continue to cook, stirring often, until turkey is cooked through.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Add the marinara sauce to the turkey mixture and stir well.  Next, add the pasta to the sauce and stir once more until well combined.

Transfer the pasta to a greased 9- x 13-inch baking dish.  Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the top.  Cover and bake for 25 minutes.  Uncover and bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until lightly browned and hot.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Coconut Cake - Saveur Mag

Springtime is in full bloom around here, and with it comes sunshine-filled days, cheerful flowers, garden projects and playful bumble bees that our springer spaniel, Hannah, just loves to chase around the back yard.  Thankfully, they are just a little too fast for her, and they cleverly stay just out of her reach.  It's fun to watch the little game they play, though.

The spring season of course also brings Easter each year, and I hope that you all had a blessed Easter holiday last weekend.  This year, I was in charge of making dessert for Easter lunch.  I knew that I wanted to make some sort of layered cake...perhaps a carrot cake.  However, in the midst of my Easter brain-storming session it hit me - A coconut cake!  But not just any coconut cake, see.  In the latest issue of Saveur magazine, they did a feature on layered Southern cakes.  The photo of the Coconut Cake practically had me drooling, so the decision was an easy one.  Plus, this is a recipe handed down from Saveur Associate Food Editor Ben Mims' grandmother, Jane Newson.

The frosting for this cake is what is so special.  It's not the normal, sugary concoction.  Instead, it's almost like coconutty marshmallow fluff...Oh yes, my friends!  You start off by beating a flurry of egg whites into frothy goodness.  Then, you heat a mixture of sugar, light corn syrup and water to a very high temp of 250 degrees F, using a candy thermometer and slowly drizzle it into the egg whites.  It becomes this amazing consistency that goes onto the cake like velvet.  The cake layers also have such a wonderful texture and taste.


I searched for fresh coconut at our local grocery store, but was nowhere to be found.  As a result, I did have to use packaged shredded coconut, so I also did not have the fresh coconut water to drizzle over the cake layers.  To help make up for that, I substituted the vanilla extract in both the cake layers and frosting with coconut extract.  While that did help a little, fresh coconut would have really pushed this cake over the top.  It was still quite delicious, though. 

Decorating this cake was lots of fun.  I simply colored the shredded coconut green to resemble grass (see my notes below about how to do this), and topped it with Cadbury Mini Eggs.

Bon Appetit, my friends!

Frosting...ooey, gooey, fluffy goodness!

One more layer to go...

Ready for the frosting!

Almost finished...

Coconut Cake
Adapted from Saveur magazine

SERVES 10–12 
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
2 1/2 cups cake flour, plus more for pans, sifted
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
5 eggs

4 egg whites
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup fresh coconut water
3 cups freshly grated coconut


1. Make the cake: Heat oven to 350°. Butter and flour two 9″ cake pans, and set aside. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl; set aside. Whisk together buttermilk and vanilla in a bowl; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, alternately add dry ingredients in 3 batches and wet ingredients in 2 batches. Increase speed to high, and beat until batter is smooth, about 5 seconds. Divide batter between prepared pans, and smooth top with a rubber spatula; drop pans lightly on a counter to expel large air bubbles. Bake cakes until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cakes cool for 20 minutes in pans; invert onto wire racks, and let cool. Using a serrated knife, halve each cake horizontally, producing four layers; set aside.

2. Make the frosting: Place egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, and beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form; turn mixer off. Bring sugar, syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup tap water to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar; attach a candy thermometer to side of pan, and cook, without stirring, until thermometer reads 250°, 4–5 minutes. Turn mixer to medium speed, and very slowly drizzle hot syrup into beating egg whites. Add vanilla, and increase speed to high; beat until meringue forms stiff peaks and is slightly warm to the touch, about 3 minutes.

3. To assemble, place one layer on a cake stand, drizzle with 3 tbsp. coconut water, spread with 1 1/2 cups frosting, and sprinkle with 1/2 cup grated coconut; top with another cake, drizzle with 3 tbsp. coconut water, spread with 1 1/2 cups frosting, and sprinkle with 1/2 cup coconut. Place another cake over frosting, drizzle with 3 tbsp. coconut water, spread with 1 1/2 cups frosting, and sprinkle with 12 cup coconut; top with remaining cake and drizzle with remaining coconut water. Cover top and sides with remaining frosting, and cover outside of cake with remaining coconut, pressing it lightly to adhere; chill cake to firm frosting. Serve chilled or at room temperature.


This step is very easy!  Simply put the desired amount of shredded coconut into the bowl of a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment.  Add 2 drops of green food coloring, and mix on medium speed to evenly distribute the food coloring.  Add more food coloring, one drop at a time, until the desired shade of green is reached, mixing on medium after each addition.

If you don't have a stand mixer, you can also color the coconut using a large Ziploc bag.  With this method, place the shredded coconut into the bag, along with a few drops of food coloring.  Seal the bag and shake to evenly distribute the food coloring.  Repeat until the desired shade of green is reached.

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sunny-Side-Up Eggs with Baked Potato Hash & Bacon

A year ago, I wouldn't touch a sunny-side-up egg with a 10 foot pole.  There was just something about a runny yolk that completely turned me off.  It's funny how our tastes change over time, though.  I find myself being open to more and more foods that I disliked growing up.  And I have to admit, it's fun to cook a delicious dinner and then watch Brad realize that "Hey, maybe black olives aren't so bad after all, and wow...mushrooms really ARE good!"  We should all try new foods at LEAST once, right?  We might just be surprised.

Anchovies?  Well, that's a completely different story...I'm not quite there yet! 

With all of the egg recipes floating around in honor of the upcoming Easter holiday, I recently had a hankering for them one Sunday morning.  This recipe in my latest issue of Glamour magazine seemed like just the thing to calm that craving. And helped me conquer my fear of the dreaded runny yolk.

The beauty of this dish is that it's a very simple and quick breakfast to whip up on a lazy weekend morning, but it's equally as scrumptious as a comforting dinner.  Now, that's my kind of meal!

Bon Appetit, my friends!

Sunny-Side-Up Eggs with Baked Potato Hash
Adapted from Glamour magazine, April 2012 issue

5 slices bacon
3 white or yellow fleshed potatoes
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 tsp. olive or canola oil
2 sprigs thyme
1 spring rosemary
A pinch of paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 large eggs

In a medium skillet, fry bacon over medium-low heat, until crisp.  Flip bacon several times while it's cooking, to avoid burning.  Remove cooked bacon to a paper towel lined plate.  Once cooled, break the bacon into small bite-sized pieces and set to the side.

While the bacon is frying, prepare the hash...

For Hash:  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Cut potatoes into 1/4-inch squares.  In a large bowl, toss potatoes and onions with oil until well-coated.  Stir in herbs, paprika, salt and pepper, and spread mixture onto a cookie sheet.  Bake until browned, turning occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook eggs:  Over low heat, melt butter in a small nonstick pan;  use just enough to lightly coat the bottom.  Crack an egg in a bowl (in case of bits of shell or broken yolk), then tip into pan.  Turn heat up to medium-high, and cook until outer white is fully set for sunny-side up.

For over easy, flip egg then reduce heat to low and cook until white is set but yolk is still runny, 10 to 15 seconds.  (If you like your yolk cooked a bit more, let the egg sit in the pan on low heat for another 15 to 20 seconds.)

Spoon hash onto plate, sprinkle bacon pieces over the hash, slide egg on top and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Repeat with remaining eggs.

Serves 4.