Showing posts with label snacks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label snacks. Show all posts

Monday, August 5, 2013

Blueberry Buttermilk Coffee Cake

Blueberry Buttermilk Coffee Cake. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
It's so easy to use up summertime blueberries ~ eaten out of hand, or in granola parfaits or salads, any time they can be enjoyed for their own tart and sweet selves. But save a few of the tart and sweet treats for this blueberry coffee cake.

This buttermilk coffee cake is delicious on its own, and downright delightful with the addition of blueberries. It's really just a loose scone dough, spread into a square pan and baked. The recipe is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, "Treasured Recipes of the Charleston Cake Lady" by Teresa Pregnall (Hearst Books, 1996). Mrs. Pregnall was a retired secretary in Charleston when she decided to turn her hobby of baking cakes into a business. Through the Charleston Cake Lady business, she shipped more than 20,000 cakes all over the country. Her cookbook is a winner, too, with recipes just right for home bakers.

Blueberry Buttermilk Coffee Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried

1. Heat oven to 375. Grease an 8-inch square pan.

2. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon, and the salt into a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter with your fingers until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 1/2 cup of the crumb mixture. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon to remaining crumb mixture. Dissolve the baking soda in the buttermilk and add to the crumb mixture, stirring until the dry ingredients are well moistened. Add the vanilla extract.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. scatter blueberries across the batter and press in. Sprinkle with the reserved crumb mixture. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the cake is lightly browned on top.

4. Cool the cake in the pan. Cut it into squares when the cake is completely cool.

Adapted from Treasured Recipes from the Charleston Cake Lady by Teresa Pregnall 
(Hearst Books, 1996)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Crispy crepes

Crepes with Nutella and  Biscoff. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

I think Winnie the Pooh is a first-rate snacker. When Pooh Bear gets a little rumbly in  his tumbly, he goes searching for the hunny pot and bread. Here's a variation on bread and honey, just right for elevenses and teatime, crepes smeared with Nutella or Biscoff (you could even use peanut butter), and toasted quesadilla-style in a pan. The tender crepes crisp up, becoming cookie-like with a molten sweet filling.

Frieda's Specialty Produce recently sent me a package of their crepes, as easy to use as tortillas and every bit as versatile. This recipe is two-ingredient simple. Just open the package.

Crepes. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
Spackle with Nutella or Biscoff (or peanut butter).

Crepes with Nutella. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
Fold in  half and toast in a skillet set over medium heat. When the edges are warm brown, remove from heat, cut into wedges and serve.

Crepes. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
I  occasionally review products that my family likes and uses. 
Thanks to Frieda's for sending the crepes. The opinions here are my own. 

Text and images copyright 2013, Lucy Mercer.

Monday, January 2, 2012

White trash snack mix

White trash snack mix. Lucy Mercer/ A Cook and Her Books
 White trash is probably one of those phrases we're not supposed to say anymore.While it's not cool to call someone "white trash," like Scarlett O'Hara would refer to Emmie Slattery" (after all, Emmie did run off with the carpetbagger), it's funny to call certain foods "white trash." I think it all started when Ernest Matthew Mickler published "White Trash Cooking," a celebration of low-class Southern food.

This "white trash" snack mix is Chex cereals, cracker sticks (or "stix" if you're into cracked-up snack cracker lingo) and peanuts coated in white chocolate. Pretzels are also good in this recipe. This snack mix is addictive in that sweet-salty-chocolatey way. The recipe makes boo-koos, too, so there's plenty to share.

White Trash Snack Mix

3 cups Wheat Chex

3 cups Rice Chex

6 oz. lightly salted roasted peanuts

1 (8 oz.) package Wheat Thins Stix, Honey Wheat variety

12 ounces white chocolate bark

1. In a large bowl, pour in cereal, peanuts and crackers. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat, wax paper or parchment paper.

2. In a microwave-safe bowl, place chocolate bark. Place in microwave and zap for 1 minute at 50 percent power. Remove, and stir chocolate. Zap again for 30 seconds at 50 percent power, remove and stir. Repeat, until chocolate is completely melted. Stir until all lumps are removed.

3. Pour melted chocolate over cereal and nuts, stir to coat. Spoon mixture onto wax paper-lined baking sheet. Let cool, then store in airtight containers at room temperature.

Text and image copyright 2012, Lucy Mercer.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Shortbread Cookies with Candied Cherries

Shortbread with candied cherries. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Fruitcake is not a tradition in my home, although my mom makes stellar "fruitcake cookies." (That recipe is hers and I hope to share it soon). I buy the candied cherries, however, to top Mom’s sandy, crispy, buttery shortbread. Shortbread is the easiest, most elemental cookie – butter, confectioner’s sugar, flour, salt and vanilla. In the past year, I've begun subbing rice flour for part of the all-purpose. It gives the shortbread a shattery, slightly friable texture.

When I wake up in early December and say “it’s cookie baking time,” I always start with a tray of shortbread. Like Sook and Buddy's fruitcake from only best short story ever written ("A Chrismtas Memory" by Truman Capote), it’s a tradition, and it’s simple – I already have butter, sugar and flour out and the oven’s pre-heating.

Shortbread with candied cherries. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Scottish Shortbread

1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened

½ cup powder sugar (10X)

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup rice flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

Candied cherries or pecan halves for garnish, if desired

1. Preheat oven to 325. In a mixer, cream butter and sugar, then add flours gradually. Add salt and vanilla.

2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, gently roll out the dough to 1/4 –inch thick, in a rough rectangle. Using a sharp knife, cut into 1-inch square pieces. Press cherry or pecan halves onto each square.

3. Bake at 325 for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. The cuts will have melded back together, but quick work with a sharp knife will take care of that. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Green and red candied cherries. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Text and images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Kid-friendly sushi idea

Barbara Beery knows how to throw a party. The author of 12 cookbooks, including her latest, “The Pink Princess Party Cookbook,” (Simon & Schuster, 2011), has more than two decades experience entertaining children with creative theme parties in her hometown of Austin, Texas.

Barbara Beery, author of "The Pink Princess Party Cookbook" (Simon & Schuster, 2011)
 She hosted her first Pink Princess Party when her now-grown daughter was just four years old and its success led to a party-planning business and a culinary store, Kids Cooking Shop. Beery’s ideas are simple and time-tested, “Every recipe has been used in my parties and in my store,” Beery said of the 34 recipes and crafts featured in the book. “I keep the ideas simple so that kids can be a part of the party. That’s a big deal.”

“The Pink Princess Party Cookbook” features six princess-themed parties, including a Spa Princess Party with a a Sparkling Princess Body Lotion and two flip-flop crafts. The menu includes Spa-Te-Dah Fruit Tea, Chocolate-Dipped Marshmallow Wands and this clever sushi recipe made from sandwich bread, carrots and apples. Serve with fruit tea or Snow Princess Punch.

Enchanted Sushi Roll-Ups from "The Pink Princess Party Cookbook" Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Enchanted Sushi Roll-Ups

6 slices whole-wheat bread, crusts removed

¼ cup soft-spread cream cheese

3 tablespoons sour cream

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

Salt and pepper

12 (6-inch long) carrot matchsticks

24 (3-inch long) peeled apple matchsticks

3 strawberries, minced

1. Place a sheet of parchment paper on the countertop. With a rolling pin, lightly roll each bread slice on the paper to flatten it.

2. Mix together the cream cheese, sour cream, mustard, honey and salt and pepper to taste. Spread over each bread slice.

3. Lay 2 carrot matchsticks and 2 apple matchsticks across the bottom of each slice of bread, letting the fruit and veggies hang over the sides. Roll up the bread, pressing gently to seal. With a serrated-edge knife, cut each roll into 4 equal pieces.

4. Garnish with the strawberries and serve.

The sushi roll-ups are a clever and tasty lunchbox item. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

From “The Pink Princess Party Cookbook” (Simon and Schuster, published 2011). Spiral bound, 64 pages, list price $15.99. A review copy was provided by the publisher. I did not receive compensation for this post. My opinions are my own. And I happen to think they're excellent.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

VBS: Very Busy Summer (or Vacation Bible School)

Fish with grapes and squeezy cheese by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Summer began with a roaring start this year with a weeklong Vacation Bible School, VBS to those in the know. This is a ministry for my church, and it takes a lot of volunteers to pull it off to make a successful program for the 200 children attending. A core group of volunteer and church staff begin planning in December in order to get the program together by June. This year, the theme was Pandamania, a program that teaches God's love through various characters, including Boomer the Panda.

I was very excited this year to be in the kitchen, providing snacks for the kids. And I was in hog heaven on the first day when Kathy, the kitchen leader, asked me to help bake 250 cupcakes. No glue dots in the craft room for this craft-school dropout, cupcakes for 250 is a ministry that I can get into! We learned to use the commercial-size mixer and ovens and even though we used a mix, I was pretty pleased with the results:

VBS cupcake by Laura Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
The week of VBS was a renewing week for me. I love my church, but I'm in the mommy years, which means that when I'm in the church building, I get distracted keeping up with my kids and where they need to be, making sure my own volunteer responsibilities are met, in other words: keeping all my ducks in a row. I hardly have time to hang out and enjoy the other women and the young people around me. During VBS, I put names with faces, matched children to parents, and made new friends while bonding over squeezy cheese and rice cakes.
And speaking of, this was my favorite snack of the week: two Quaker Cheddar Cheese Quakes sandwiched with squeezy cheese and a triangle-shaped Triscuit Thin Crisp to create a fish shape, and a raisin for an eye.

Fish crackers by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

(The Quaker Cheddar Cheese Quakes are my current favorite snack food - I could seriously eat an entire bag with no evidence other than the cheesy powder on my fingers.)

What about you? Is VBS a part of your summer? And what is your favorite packaged snack food?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Adventures in scone-making: Cream cheese apricot scones

Cream cheese apricot scones by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

On this fifth day of July, I'll celebrate our great country and the English language by creating a new word: scone-making. Probably not that earth-shattering a notion, but scone-making has taken up a fair bit of my baking time lately. It all started with a refinement of my everyday buttermilk scones, which have been gussied-up with fresh blueberries and raspberries.

As I've shared my scone-making adventures, I've discovered that not everyone in my world knows about scones. Which is completely understandable, because here in Georgia, we're smack-dab in the middle of biscuit country. And that's not biscuit as code for "cookie," either. Fluffy, feathery Crisco-and-White Lily goodness - with a bit of friend chicken breast or a sausage patty or pork tenderloin, a satisfying breakfast. Scones are kissing cousins to the Southern biscuit - buttery, sweet relatives that come to the table for breakfast or tea.

Scones are like sweet biscuits - a touch of sugar, and a lot of butter for a tender pastry that's superlative filled with fresh fruit in the summer or split and slathered with preserves in the cooler months. I make them for breakfast, or brunch if I get a late start. Scones can be an afterschool snack, or if supper's late, a teatime treat to tide you over.

Cream cheese apricot scones by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Cream Cheese Apricot Scones

Yield: 16 scones

3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 (8 ounce) package 1/3 less fat (Neufchatel) cream cheese

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 16 pieces

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup whole milk

1 cup diced, dried apricots

Demerara or sparkling sugar for garnish, optional

1. Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in cream cheese and then butter, using your fingers, two forks or a pastry cutter, until the butter and cream cheese are nuggets the size of peas.

3. In a separate container, whisk together the milk, egg and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir gently with a fork or spoon. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and following the step-by-step technique for forming the Blueberry Lemon Buttermilk Scones, pat the dough into a 12 X 6 inch rectangle.
4. Spread the diced apricots over the rectangle and press the fruit into the dough. Fold the dough into thirds, letter-style. Press the dough into a 12 X 6 rectangle again and repeat the letter fold. Press the dough into a 12 X 6 rectangle for the final time and using a sharp knife or bench knife, cut dough into four equal rectangles. Divide each rectangle in half and each of those squares into triangles, yielding 16 triangle-shaped scones.
5. Place scones on baking sheet - it's ok to get them close together because if the dough and kitchen are fairly cool, the scones will puff up rather than spread. Brush each with reserved milk and sprinkle with sparkle or demerara sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 18 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Super weekend for cooking

This is quite the weekend for people who like to cook – Chinese New Year and a little ol’ thing called the Super Bowl, which may be celebrated as much for food as for football. For Chinese New Year, I’ll let my friend Linda Shiue tell the story  about the dumplings she makes with her daughters. Francis Lam of has a funny story, too, about stuffing his gut with all kinds of dumpling deliciousness.

 As for Super Bowl party food, I should confess that I’m not really a football fan. I wrote this story last year, which pretty much sums up everything I know about football. I included a recipe for Smoky Tuna Dip with Paprika and Lime, a little something I came up with when I couldn’t find real smoked tuna. It’s a tasty and simple dip, a nice addition to a Super Bowl spread. I do know that the big game will take place in Texas, so I’m offering my Texas Caviar with Home-baked Lime Tortilla Chips. Texas caviar is a black-eyed pea relish that is absolutely yummy, and it’s a healthy choice for the menu, too.

Now, one holiday I can wrap my brain around is World Nutella Day, today - "Nutella Lovers Unite for Just One Day!" We love Nutella in our house – the hazelnut and chocolate spread is used in sandwiches and sweets. Coincidentally, yesterday was Show and Tell for the letter “N” at preschool, and my baby girl carried a jar of Nutella to show her class.

I first tasted a Nutella milkshake at Flip Burger, Top Chef contender Richard Blais’ upscale burger shop in Atlanta (there’s a Birmingham location, too). He makes his with liquid nitrogen and breaks out blowtorch for the burnt marshmallow garnish. Through the magic of Google, I came across this recipe for a Nutella milkshake and I have to say, it’s brilliant. Chocolate ice cream, milk, and a generous squidge of Nutella. No canister of liquid nitrogen involved. The real genius move, though, is the toasted marshmallow topping made without a blowtorch, but in the toaster oven.

Enjoy your weekend!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The teacher's gift

I ran into a friend this week, another mommy getting ready for Christmas, and I asked her how her week was going. "Oh, it's going great. I guess I'm all ready for Christmas!" she replied.

Knowing that Friday was the last day of school before the holidays, I asked about teacher gifts, not to make her panic, but because I'm always looking for ideas. She panicked. Her pretty blue eyes opened wide and she said, "Oh my goodness, I can't believe I forgot! I've got to get teacher gifts!" We talked through a few options, from candles and hand lotion to gift cards and baked goods. I've done them all, to recognize the hard work of my daughters' teachers.

This year, I baked. The teachers' bags were loaded with an assortment from my table of baked goodies: sweet stuff like pound cakes, espresso chocolate chip cookies, chocolate dipped marshmallows and mint Oreos, peppermint white chocolate bark, and shortbread. All that sugar requires a balancing element. I like to add something salty to the assortment, so I make a double batch of my special snack mix and add a bag to each package.

This is one version of the snack mix. It's different each time I make it because snack crackers seem to come and go. The backbone of the mix is oyster crackers, embellished with a pretzel type like Hanover's Buttery Waffles - these are the best. A cheesy cracker works well, and a sesame one, if you can find it.  Peanuts, mixed nuts, cashews, are all excellent choices to round out the mix.

Snack Mix

1  (10 oz.) package oyster crackers

1 (9 oz.) package Snyder's of Hanover Butter Snaps Pretzels

1 (12 oz.) package cheese crackers or sticks

1 (12 oz.) can mixed nuts

1 (1 oz.) envelope Hidden Valley Ranch Original Ranch Salad Dressing

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Heat oven to 300. In a large, shallow pan, mix together all snack ingredients. Stir together the salad dressing and oil and pour over the snacks. Evenly distribute the seasoning throughout the mixture. Bake in oven, stirring frequently, for about a half hour. This is absolutely irrestisible warm from the oven. You can store it at room temp in sealed containers, but it won't last long. Actually, the untouched mix could probably last for a week or more, but my point is, it won't be around your house for very long if the munch monsters know where to find it.

Do you make teacher's gifts? What were your favorites to give or, if you're a teacher, to receive? I'd love to know.

Text and images copyright 2010, Lucy Mercer.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

In Search of the Perfect Crunch

These are my favorite chips right now: Doritos cheeseburger chips. Everyday Doritos are addictive enough, but the ketchup/mustard/cheese/pickle/smoky flavor matrix means a bag doesn't last very long in my house. Can't get enough.

Another favorite crunch, although I the heat keeps me from pigging out on them - wasabi peas. I guess they are freeze-dried peas coated with spicy wasabi. I grab a handful when I'm cooking and also toss them in green salads. A note: kids don't like these. Beware of the child who does.

Have you tried these? What are your favorite crunchy snacks?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Treats for the Sweet

A heart full of love: Blondies by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

This recipe is provided by Laura, who is 11 and a fantastic baker. She learned this recipe from her Mimi, who is her grandmother and my mom. I grew up calling them "brown sugar brownies," but they are really blondies and just about the best thing in the world to come home to (other than my sweet girls and husband).

Mimi’s Blondies

Serves 16

1 ½ sticks of margarine (don't even think of using butter, the blondies won't have the right texture)
1 pound light brown sugar
3 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder

1. Melt margarine and brown sugar together in a pan on the stove. Pour into a mixing bowl.
2. Add eggs, flour, and baking powder in that order. Mix together and pour into a pan.
3. Bake in oven at 350°F for 45 minutes.
This recipe was given to me by my grandma, who taught me and my mother before me to cook. These blondies are a family favorite and are begged and traded for at school! Enjoy! - Laura