Crispy Coconut Nest Cookies

Around here, spring is in the air. The tulips are coming up in planters on our back porch, temperatures are slowly rising and that dreaded annual haze of pollen has Alabamians sneezing. Just like that, Easter is upon us.

Nest EggIn celebration of the season, I made some whimsical little nests out coconut, rice cereal and honey. The “eggs” are white chocolate chips. Aren’t they the cutest?

The nests are photographed on a deviled egg tray that was treasured by my great grandmother Pate, then my Gran, and now me.

Crispy Coconut Nest Cookies

MC Post Nests3/4 cup sweetened coconut
2 cups rice cereal*
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup honey
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons Nutella
white chocolate chips, jelly beans or other “egg” candy, for garnish

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the coconut, rice cereal and all purpose flour. Set aside.

In a smaller microwaveable bowl, combine the butter, almond butter and honey. Gently warm until ingredients are just melted, about 30 seconds. Your mixture should be luke warm. Stir until well combined.

Add the egg and vanilla, beating with a whisk or fork until the egg disappears into the butter mixture. Pour the wet mix over the dry and stir until all the dry mixture is coated.

Use a 1/4 cup measure to scoop up the cereal dough. You’ll want a scant cupful for each nest. Roll into twelve equal portions and place on a cookie sheet.

Use the back of a spoon to make an indentation for each nest. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly brown.

After the cookies have cooled, add a spoonful of the Nutella to the center of each nest. Garnish with white chocolate chip “eggs” or any other candy desired.

*For testing, I used Erewhon Honey Rice Twice, but Rice Krispies or a similar brand should work as well.

As for tomorrow, I hope you have a beautiful day spent with family. I hope you’ll find time to reflect on new beginnings. And I hope there’s a little candy in your basket. Happy Easter!

Legendary Bookout Dressing

Home Place Collage

My Dad and a 7-year-old me, at my family’s long empty “old home place” in Mississippi.

Years before I was born–years before my Dad was born, for that matter–my Gramsie left the South of England for the American South. It was wartime, and she was sent to live with her new in-laws on a farm in rural Fulton, Mississippi. Mamaw, my great grandmother who I never met, taught Gramsie a few things about cooking across the pond. Dressing was on the list of recipes she picked up.

Gramsie

Big Dad in his Army uniform and Gramsie–hardly a farm girl.

It’s kind of ironic that a glamourous Brit ended up being the carrier of a deeply Southern family recipe, which is presented with great fanfare on our holiday tables. That said, my Gramsie made the best cornbread dressing I’ve ever tasted. It was perfect every time.

From what I am told, Mamaw cooked from pure intuition. Gramsie was just the same. She never measured the ingredients for the dressing, choosing memory and repetition over cups and tablespoons.

As Gramsie got older, she knew the skill needed to be passed down. Just like Mamaw, she taught her daughter-in-law, my Mom. After a few holidays of cooking with Gramsie, Mom mastered the preparation. While this is still a “taste it and see” recipe, Mom started the work on getting the basic formula on paper. I got hold of it this year and have been tinkering with it myself.

Easter is a classic meal for dressing to make an appearance, but I’ve decided it shouldn’t be relegated to a holiday table. Dressing is easy to put together and makes a tasty use for leftover cornbread and rolls.

I make cornbread quite a lot, and I’ve been keeping a bag of leftovers in the freezer. When the bag is full, it’s time for a batch of dressing. Here’s how I make it:

Dressing Plate

Vore’s wedge of dressing served with turkey, green beans and carrots

Bookout Dressing

1 teaspoon canola oil

3/4 cup diced celery

1.5 cups diced onion

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3/4-1 teaspoon salt, to taste

1 1/2 teaspoon dried sage

9 cups cornbread crumbles. (Not the sweet kind. Yuck!)

4 cups white rolls, torn into very small pieces.

3 cups vegetable broth, or water + 1 vegetable bouillon cube

1/4 cup butter

3 eggs, hardboiled then finely chopped

*Heat the canola oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the celery, onion sage and pepper. Sauté lightly for a few minutes, until the vegetable are soft and translucent. Do not brown.

*Meanwhile, measure your cornbread and white bread and mix them together in a large bowl. Add the onion/celery mixture. Stir to ensure it is evenly distributed.

*In a sauce pan (or in the microwave for that matter!) heat the broth and butter until they are mixed together. Slowly pour about half of the liquid into the cornbread mixture. Stir it together and give it a hard look. Do you need more liquid? If so, add. You want everything wet, but not gummy and pasty.

Dressing collage*Taste it. Is there enough salt for your liking? Sage? If not, add a little more.

*Stir in the hardboiled eggs.

*Spread the dressing evenly in a 13 x 9 baking pan. Use the back of a spoon to press it evenly through your dish. Press hard! You want everything to stick together.

*Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour. Cooking time will depend greatly on how dry your breadcrumbs were. You want the finished product to be browned and crumbly on top, slightly moist inside.

Tried It: Samoas Girl Scout Cookie Pie

While I like to play in the kitchen to create my own recipes, I read a bevy of magazines and food blogs for inspiration. I make other folks’ recipes all the time, and I thought it might be fun to share the extra good ones I find.

Avocado Tart 1I’ve been reading about recipes that use avocado as “cream” or “pudding” for ages. When Chocolate Covered Katie’s recipe for Samoas Girl Scout Cookie Pie came through, I finally gave in and tried it.

I only had one avocado on hand, so I cut the recipe in half and prepared the pie in 4 individual tart pans. It worked perfectly! Since they were frozen, it was easy to just pick these up and eat them like cookies, which was just fine with us!

I didn’t bother telling Vore that there was anything awry with these Samoas until there were only a couple of bites left in his second serving. He shrugged, said “really?” and kept eating. I’d say it’s a winner!

Boozy Irish Cream Coffee Cupcakes

Pot o gold 1

I’m not remotely Irish, but I do have a cousin who lives there. (Hi, Laurie!) She went to study abroad in college, fell for a lovable Irishman, and has been back and forth ever since.

Laurie has experienced more than one St. Pat’s Day on the Green Isle. She swears that the holiday is a very much bigger deal in the U.S. than Ireland ever thought about. Go figure.

The weekend of overblown American debauchery is upon us. These days, I’m not much for Irish Car Bomb shots or green beer, but Bailey’s and coffee? Now that’s a celebration I can get behind!

These cupcakes are dense, rich and heavy-handed on the spirits, giving you a double dose of that yummy Irish liqueur, laced with swirls of coffee. Cocktail in cupcake form, anyone? They might just bring the luck of the Irish.

Boozy Irish Cream Coffee Cupcakes

For the batter

1 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup butter

2/3 cup sugar

1 large egg

1/4 cup Bailey’s Irish Creme

1/2 cup milk or unsweetened almond milk

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

For the Coffee Swirl

2 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon finely ground coffee

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

 

For the Frosting

1/2 cup cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup butter, softened

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Creme

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.

Add in the egg and beat until incorporated, then add the milk and Bailey’s.

Once everything is mixed well, sprinkle your flour into the batter, mixing in three additions. Mix until just combined, being careful not to over beat. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, make the swirl by combining the melted butter, coffee granules, brown sugar and cinnamon. (FYI, the butter for the cake and the butter for the swirl = 1 stick)

Carefully drizzle the swirl over your batter, then use a wooden spoon or spatula to pull it through. You want pockets of the brown mixture in your batter, not a thorough incorporation. See genius illustration below:

Collage 1

Pour the batter into 12 prepared cupcake liners and bake at 350 for 18 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the frosting by beating together to the cream cheese, butter and Bailey’s. Add in the confectioner’s sugar in about three additions, beating throughly each time. Ice the cooled cupcakes and store in the fridge.

Just a sidenote: Unless you reeeeeeeeally like frosting, this recipe will make much more than you need for the cupcakes. I had about 1 cup leftover and froze it in an airtight container. It’s perfect for cinnamon rolls! You can also use the leftover frosting as a fruit dip or as a spread for graham crackers. Use your imagination!

Banana Bread Protein Waffles

Cut Waffle for web

All this time I’ve been making protein pancakes, complaining about the lack of room in my pan, the messy flipping and the time spent carefully watching the little boogers to ensure they are cooked enough, but not overly brown.

And then it dawned on me: Sister, you can use that easy-peasy waffle iron that’s gathering dust in your cupboard. It’s non-stick, has a green light when the waffle is cooked and only requires a wipe down to be classified as “clean.” Sold!

That’s the story of how these protein pancakes became waffles. The protein powder is sneaky here–I bet you’ll never even notice it. There’s loads of banana flavor and a pleasant crunch from the pecans. If you have the time, toast the nuts. It’s worth the extra effort!

Banana Bread Protein Waffles (which work just fine as pancakes, too!)

2 tablespoons vanilla brown rice protein powder

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

5-inch slice of banana (or 3.5 ounces with the peel)

1 large egg

1 tablespoon chopped pecans

In a small bowl, mix the protein powder, baking powder and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, mush the heck out of your banana, using a fork or pastry cutter.

Add the egg and mush some more, until combined.

You guessed it–add the protein powder mixture and get it nice and combined. Stir in the nuts.

Pour onto a heated waffle iron that has been coated with cooking spray. Cook until you get a green light.

Serve with butter, syrup and berries if you have them!

5 Ways to Add Smoke to Meatless Cooking

Vore is quite the fan of smokey things. Case in point, this “beer can” chicken he recently smoked on the Big Green Egg

Beer can chickenAnd on my cute monogrammed tray to boot. For shame!

Last week, I made a batch of enchiladas for our weekly meatless meal. (Well…Vore’s weekly meatless meal. All mine are!) I used a recipe from the holistic health coach that contains quinoa, black beans, corn tortillas and a cilantro mixture. Vore dug in declaring, “You can’t tell there’s no meat in these!” I have a theory on the success.

I went off the reservation just a bit and used smoked mozzarella instead of the recommended queso fresco. I’m convinced that smoky flavor might be the key for us vegetarians to convince our carnivorous friends to up their plant intake. And so, I present to you, 5 ways to add smoke to meatless cooking:

  1. Smoked paprika: If this isn’t in your pantry, get out and buy some NOW! I first discovered it when I tried this recipe for pink eyed peas, still a household favorite. You can sprinkle smoked paprika on just about anything and add amazing depth of flavor. It’s like powdered bacon! 
  2. Smoked cheese: Cheddar, mozzarella, my personal favorite–smoked gouda. So many cheeses come with that great pop of flavor. Just read the label and ensure it’s not super processed, a la what you’d find in those creepy shelf-stable sausage/cheese/cracker gift sets. Gag.
  3. Liquid smoke: You’ll find this bottle near the barbecue sauce. It literally tastes like the grill smells. Use a super light hand when you add it to your beans, veggie burgers, etc. Too much, and you’ll overpower your cooking.
  4. Adobo sauce: This little gem of Mexican food will rock your world. You might have to dig a little at the grocery, or head to a specialty store, but it’s totally worth it. Smoke + heat! I buy chipotle chilies canned in adobo sauce and throw them in my chili recipe. I freeze the leftovers to use later.
  5. The Grill! Sounds obvious, but hickory chips on the grill are the original way to make any food taste smoky. My absolute favorite would be grilled portobellos, but peppers and onions are amazing too.

How do you add smoke to your cooking without the meat?