Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Caramel-Pecan Sheet Cake

Looking for an easy and incredibly delicious cake to take to all your summer festivities?  Look no further.  Caramel-Pecan Sheet Cake fits the bill perfectly.

My husband's favorite dessert is his mother's yellow cake with caramel icing.  For years I heard him go on and on about how good it is. My mother-in-law only seemed to make when I wasn't around but that didn't stop me from trying to replicate it several times.  Each attempt tasted good to me but was always met with "It's good, but it's not the same as Mom's." from my husband.  Desperate to get this right I called her for the recipe and found out it was simply a boxed cake mix and a simple caramel sauce.  My mother-in-law is old school and doesn't cook with recipes or a cookbook so the directions I received were vague and I ended up with another fail on my table.

About a year ago I finally got to taste a slice of the infamous caramel cake.  I love my mother-in-law and she is a great cook, but I didn't see, or taste, what all the fuss was about.  My two sister-in-laws were there and told me that they had tried to make the cake too but it was never right.  I'm not accusing my mother-in-law of leaving an ingredient out or purposely not relaying the recipe correctly, but something was missing.  Let's just say it was mother's love.

This Caramel-Pecan Sheet Cake is the closest I've come to taking the Best Caramel Cake award from my mother-in-law.  I knew it was a contender at first bite.  Incredibly moist, the cake is flavorful from on its own the layer of caramel frosting takes it over the top.  

Cut the pieces bigger than you think you need to.  Trust me.

Caramel-Pecan Sheet Cake
Taste of the South, May/June 2013

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Caramel Frosting (recipe follows)
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 325° F.  Spray a 15x10-inch jelly-roll pan with nonstick baking spray with flour or butter pan well.  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring butter and 1 cup water to a boil.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.  Add hot butter mixture to flour mixture, beat at low speed with an electric mixer just until moistened.  Add sour cream, beating well.  Add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla.  Pour batter into prepared pan.

Baked until cake is lightly browned and a wooden pick inserted at the center of cake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

Pour hot Caramel Frosting over warm cake, spreading to edges.  Sprinkle with pecans.  Let cool completely on wire rack.

Caramel Frosting

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large, heavy saucepan, bring butter, brown sugar, and salt to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat; slowly stir in sour cream.

Bring mixture just to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.

Sift confectioners' sugar.  Gradually add confectioners' sugar and vanilla, beating at medium speed with a mixer until smooth.  Use immediately.  
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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Baked Sunday Mornings - Cream Cheese Chocolate Snacking Cookies

I made these Cream Cheese Chocolate Snacking cookies from Baked Elements a while back and had the forethought to snap pictures but not to jot down any notes about the process or results.  So my Baked Sunday Mornings' friends, this will be a short post.  

I remember the cookies being easy to make and even easier to eat with a tender texture and loads of chocolate flavor.  I like using cream cheese in cookies because it seems to make for a soft cookie.  I also liked the chocolate chips here for some textural contrast and an extra hit of chocolate, always a good thing!

Please visit Baked Sunday Mornings to get the recipe!
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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Baked Sunday Mornings - Mississippi Mud Pie

Hard to believe, but this is our last recipe from Baked Explorations.  I was flipping though it earlier today and realized that many of my favorite recipes are from this one book!  

Mississippi Mud Pie and I go way back.  All the way back to my first marriage more than twenty years ago (wow, that makes me sound and feel so old!).  My ex-husband and I lived within walking distance of the grocery store and we walked there often just to get these incredible frozen Mississippi Mud Pies made by Pepperidge Farm.  They had a crumbly chocolate cookie base, topped with a chocolate mousse filling and I'm pretty sure there was a layer of whipped cream.  They were awesome!  I think I cried a little when I they stopped making them.

This lovely little pie reminded me of those frozen treats and that time in my life while I was making and tasting it.  I don't do coffee flavored anything so I used just plain ol' chocolate ice cream.  I had planned on using some chocolate ice cream that I made last weekend but didn't have enough.  I also didn't use the recommended Nabisco cookies for the base.  I love them but just couldn't bring myself to spend almost $5 on a box and used chocolate animal crackers instead.

I love this.  It's a slice of chocolate heaven!  I actually like the bourbon here too.  I only used it in the fudge layer and loved the subtle flavor it added.  A great way to finish off a great cookbook!

Please visit Baked Sunday Mornings for the recipe and to see what the rest of our group did this week.
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Monday, May 27, 2013

Guest Post from Crazy Lou - Pasta Salad w/Asparagus & Basil Vinaigrette

As I mentioned last week, I'm participating in a blog swap and am super excited to present the first guest post here at Candy Girl!  Let's meet Cindy from Crazylou!

Hello!  I'm Cindy from Crazylou. I'm so excited to be joining Candy on her blog today as part of the Good Old Fashioned Blog Swap! What fun! There's more swappin' going on--check out one of these lovely ladies to see the rest of the blog swaps - Julie {White Lights on Wednesday}, Kelley {Miss Information} or Rachel {i love my disorganized life}.

Today I'm sharing a fresh and light pasta salad. It's perfect for those upcoming gatherings this Summer. I'm always looking for something that doesn't have mayo in it when we go to BBQ's or potlucks, because you never know how long it will sit out! This is perfect for Spring and early Summer, when asparagus is at its prime! I made this over for our Mother's Day cookout and it was a hit! Hope you enjoy it!

Pasta Salad with Asparagus and Basil Vinaigrette

Adapted from Cook’s Country
Serves 8-10

1 box pasta (any type is fine)
1 lb fresh asparagus
¼ c. pine nuts, toasted
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 c – ½ c shredded Parmesan cheese

6 Tbls. Olive Oil
½ c chopped fresh basil
3 Tbls. Lemon juice
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp salt and pepper (each)

Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a large bowl (large enough for the pasta salad).
Steam asparagus until tender. I used the Steam Bags, but use your preferred method. When tender, run under cold water. Pat dry. Cut into chunks. Place in bowl with dressing.

Prepare pasta as directed on box. Drain. Toss in bowl with dressing and asparagus. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until chilled. Just before serving, add in pine nuts, tomatoes and Parmesan. Stir to combine. If you make the salad a day in advance, freshen up with a spoonful of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Thanks again to Candy for blog swapping with me today! Stop over and visit my little corner of the World sometime--I've always got a little craziness happening at Crazylou!
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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Baked Sunday Mornings - Malted Milk Madeleines

Malted Milk Madeleines are on the Baked Sunday Mornings' menu this week.  A madeleine is a small cake that originated from France and is traditionally baked in a pan that results in shell shaped cakes.

This recipe isn't traditional in that it doesn't include ground nuts in the batter but does have the light texture of madeleines.  This isn't my first time making madeleines but it is the first time making them with a madeleine pan.  I love the pretty shell shape!

These were good and the malt flavor was definitely detectable.  Kind of a sophisticated spin on Whopper's candy.  

To find the recipe, please visit Baked Sunday Mornings.

Be sure and visit tomorrow when I share my very first guest post!  Cindy from Crazy Lou and I are swapping recipes and blogs for the day and it should be lots of fun!
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Friday, May 17, 2013

Tuscan Fries

Who doesn't love french fries?  

I'm kinda picky about fries and prefer them with the skins on, on the thin side, crispy, and well salted.  I occasionally fry my own but find standing over the stove frying batch after batch to be tedious.  When I spotted this recipe that calls for starting them in cold oil and pretty much just leaving them until they are done I knew this was the start of something wonderful.

And wonderful they were.  I sliced my potatoes thinner than suggested and ended up with this lovely pile of french fries that were perfectly golden and crispy.  Exactly like I like them.  Garlic and a handful of herbs are tossed in the oil after a while and add wonderful flavor and elevate these fries to something extraordinary.  As if a plateful of french fries weren't incentive enough, the easy prep for these makes this recipe a must try. 

In other news - I’m participating in a Good Old Fashioned Recipe Blog Swap! Julie {White Lights on Wednesday}Kelley {Miss Information} and Rachel {i love my disorganized life} have paired up 30 incredible bloggers to trade blogs for the day.

Cindy from Crazylou Creations and I will be sharing a fabulous recipe on each other's blogs {but we can't tell you what they are, because they're a secret!}.  Be sure to visit both of us on May 27th, we wouldn't want you to miss out on any deliciousness!

Tuscan Fries
Nigellissima, Nigella Lawson

2 1/4 pounds potatoes (Nigella recommends Yukon Gold but I used Russets)
1 1/2 quarts corn oil or flavorless vegetable oil, for frying
Unpeeled cloves from 1 head garlic
8 tender top sprigs thyme, rosemary, and sage, or herbs of your choice
Kosher salt, to taste

Cut the short ends off each potato (but don't peel) so that it can sit up vertically, and then slice downwards into generous 1/2-inch slices.  Cut these slices into fries about 1/2 inch thick; again, err on the generous side.  Load up a clean dishcloth with the fries as you cut them.

Put the oil into a wide, heavy pan and add the freshly cut potatoes.  Then put the pan over high heat and bring to a boil, which should take about 5 minutes.  Keep a careful watch on the pan at all times.

Continue to cook the fries, without stirring them, for another 15 minutes.  The pan will be bubbling vigorously.  If the oil gets too hot or bubbles too hard, reduce the heat a little, and always keep a close eye on it.  (If you're using a thermometer, once the oil temperatures reaches 325° F, turn down the heat slightly and keep the fries cooking at between 300 and 325° F.)

Now you can very carefully give the fries a gentile stir with a pair of tongs held in an oven mitt, moving any that have stuck away from the bottom or sides of the pan.  Add the unpeeled cloves of garlic to the pan, stir gently again, and cook for another 5-10 minutes (watching the temperature and making sure the garlic doesn't look burnt or the fries too dark), before testing a fry for crispness on the outside and tenderness on the inside.  Do not burn your mouth!  You might need another 5 minutes or so beyond this, but stand by your pan; the fries can turn from a cooked gold to a burnt bronze quickly.

At the point when the fries are pale gold, but crisp, toss in the herbs, then after a minute or so scoop everything out - using a couple of perforated scoops for ease, and wearing oven mitts to protect your hands - onto a baking sheet or platter lined with a double thickness of paper towels.  Sprinkle with salt and serve.

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Strawberry Buttermilk Shake

I'm really trying to eat better most of the time.  I'm not denying myself anything but am focusing on making better choices more often.  And it's been surprisingly easy.  And effective. I've dropped ten pounds in the last couple of months.

But I love ice cream.  Love it.  Love making it, eating it, going out for it.  I can't have one of my many favorite flavors in the house without feeling the constant pull to the freezer.  So when I came across this recipe for a Strawberry Buttermilk Shake I thought it was worth trying to see if it could be a lower fat alternative method for me to fulfill my ice cream cravings.

And guess what?  It kind of it is.  It's creamy and sweet.  The buttermilk gives a little tang but it works great with the strawberry.  The recipe below makes 2 generous servings or 4 regular servings but I have whipped up one for just me by quartering the recipe.  I've also found that my salad dressing shaker and a spoon make a milkshake without dirtying the blender and I get some bonus cardio from the vigorous shaking!  

What food (or foods) is your weakness?

Strawberry Buttermilk Shake
Mad Hungry, Lucinda Scala Quinn

1 pint strawberry sorbet
1 cup low-fat buttermilk

Place ingredients in blender and mix until combined.  
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