Tuesday, January 06, 2015

♥ Lemon Cream Cake

Why do I love this cake?  Let me count the reasons!   First it's light and airy and so moist.  Next, it has a wonderful creamy filling with just a subtle hint of fresh lemon that makes it almost summery. And because it is simple and quick and perfect for those times when you really want to impress your guests.  This is a keeper my friends!

 Lemon Cream Cake
1 box white cake mix, plus the oil, eggs, and water as directed
1 box  lemon cake mix
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 medium lemon, juiced
lemon zest of half the same lemon
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 (8 oz.) package Mascarpone cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom of a 10-inch spring form pan with cooking spray. 
Prepare the white cake according to the directions on the box. Add in the sour cream and vanilla and mix well. Pour batter into a 10 inch round baking pan.  I use a 10 inch spring form pan but you don't have to. 

While the cake is baking, make the filling.  Mix together the mascarpone, powdered sugar, lemon juice, and whipping cream. Add  the lemon zest of half the same lemon and then mix until creamy and smooth.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to completely cool.  Then with a serrated knife, carefully cut the cake in half.  On the bottom half of the cooled cake, drop dollops of the cream filling and smooth with rubber spatula.  Save some for the top of the cake.  Put on the other half of the cake and spread a thin layer of the remaining filling on top of the cake.

Next, make your crumb topping.  In a medium bowl, combine 1 and 3/4 cups of the lemon cake mix with about a tablespoon of  the melted butter. I like to start off with just a butter and continue to add more until I get the perfect crumb topping.  Usually about 2-3 tablespoons.  

Sprinkle topping all over top of cake. Refrigerate for about an hour before serving.

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Monday, January 05, 2015

Southern "Soup Beans" and Cornbread

Sometimes I get up early in the morning and put on a big pot of beans, just like my Mom used to do. They were our special meal and I still love them today. She would go out to her garden and pull up some spring onions and make a big cast iron skillet of cornbread to go with them. My Mom called them Soup beans. Soup beans is a term common in the Southern United States, particularly the regions around the Appalachian Mountains. It refers to pinto or other brown dried beans cooked with pork as flavoring. They are considered a main course in the south and in Appalachia where food was scarce during the winter, these beans were a staple food. I cook mine with ham hocks, bacon or "fat back" as my Mom used to refer to it. I also mix my beans ....a 1/2 bag of Pintos and a 1/2 bag of red kidney beans and the flavors are just perfect.

Southern "Soup Beans" and Cornbread

1/2 lb. pinto beans
1/2 lb. red kidney beans
6 cups water
2-3 meaty ham hocks, or a slab of fat back
4 slices of bacon, fried and chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Soak beans overnight if you have time. The next day, rinse and drain them and put them to a soup pot or dutch oven with your ham hocks, bacon, onion, and garlic. Do not salt at this point or it will make your beans tough. Add in 6 cups of water or enough to just cover the beans. Cover them and bring to a full boil for about 10 minutes. Then turn down the temperature and let them cook until tender–at least 3 hours in a simmering pot. Stir from time to time and add more water if necessary. You want the gravy to look thick like a stew and not thin like water.

Next, remove the ham hocks and place on a plate. Then shred the ham hocks and put them back in the pot. Add salt and pepper, and allow beans to continue to cook on low while you make your cornbread.

By the time your cornbread is ready, the bean liquid should have reduced to a thick broth. Ladle out the beans into wide shallow bowls, then top the beans with onions if desired. Serve with a big slice of corn bread.

Southern Cornbread                                                                      

1/4 cup of bacon drippings
1-1/2 cups regular yellow cornmeal (not self rising)
3 tablespoons of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
2 cups of buttermilk, more or less (see note on how to make your own buttermilk below)
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Add the bacon drippings to a 10-inch cast iron skillet and place the skillet into the oven to melt the fat and heat the skillet. You want it very hot but not smoking.

In a bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and swirl the hot fat around to coat the entire skillet. Pour the fat from the skillet into the cornmeal mixture; stir. Stir in half of the buttermilk and add the egg; add more buttermilk as needed to make a thick but pourable batter. Mix the ingredients but don't beat or over mix. Pour the cornmeal mixture into the hot skillet. You should hear it sizzle when it hits the skillet. Carefully place directly into the oven and bake at 450 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven, let rest for 5 minutes, then very carefully turn the cornbread out onto a plate or platter to preserve that nice crispy crust!

 Pan Version: If you prefer to make this in a pan, just grease an 8 x 8 inch baking dish with vegetable shortening. Mix all of the ingredients together and pour into pan. Bake as above.

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Friday, January 02, 2015

Strawberry Salad

I love this salad!  I used to make my own balsamic glaze for it until I found Star Fine Foods Creamy Balsamic Glaze was so much better than my own!  Their creamy sweet glaze and this salad are a perfect match. You get such intense sweet and tangy flavors of the balsamic that go beautifully with the ripe strawberries and sweet crunchy pecans! Did I mention I love this salad?
Strawberry Salad with Candied Pecans and Balsamic Glaze
  •    2-3 cups mixed greens (I like arugula and baby spinach)
  •    1 pint strawberries, sliced
  •    1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded
  •    1/4 cup candied pecans (see below)
  •    1/4 cup red grapes, sliced
  •    1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  •    1/4 cup Star Fine Foods Modena Creamy Balsamic Glaze 

Glaze the pecans:  In a saute pan, add the pecans and sugar and slowly heat on low until sugar starts to melt and pecans become toasted. Set aside to completely cook on wax paper.

Chill two salad plates in the freezer while mixing salad.  
Rinse mixed greens, spin dry and add to a large bowl. In a large salad bowl, drizzle some of the balsamic down the sides of the bowl. Add in greens and strawberries; toss gently.  Sprinkle in pecans and toss again. Finally add sliced grapes,  pine nuts and cheese. Remove salad plates from freezer and plate with lettuce mixture. Sprinkle on more pecans and drizzle with more glaze. Serve immediately.

Disclaimer: I have an ongoing relationship with STAR Fine Foods for my recipes and photography using their wonderful products. This post is sponsored by STAR. I am compensated for my time and work and I am sent products as I request them. However, all opinions of the product stated in this post are 100% my own. I truly love their products!
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Monday, December 29, 2014

Good Things Come In Little Jars!

You know I can honestly say that sometimes the best party appetizers come in a jar. That is, when they are from STAR Fine Foods and Cara Mia. I always put out a plate of my favorite nibbles whenever friends and family come! 

I am absolutely hooked on their little cocktail onions and my friends and family rave over the marinated mushrooms. 

The olives you see in the photo are stuffed with garlic and will be featured here tomorrow. Such a simple little plate of goodies that will go fast. Better stock up! They are perfect for your New Years Eve party!

Cara Mia Mushrooms are available at select Savemart, Smart & Final, Schnucks, King Soopers, Walmart, Smith’s and Ingles stores and online at  http://shop.starfinefoods.com/Marinated-Mushrooms/p/STAR-00016&c=Star@CaraMiaSpecialtyItems

STAR cocktail onions are available at select Safeway, Bashas and Walmart stores and online at http://shop.starfinefoods.com/Imported-Cocktail-Onions/p/STAR-00715&c=Star@StarSpecialtyItems.

STAR olives are available at select Safeway, Vons, King Soopers, Ralphs, Smiths, Savemart, Raley’s, Lucky, Food 4 Less, Smart & Final, Bashas, Walmart, Thom Thumb and Randall’s stores and online at  http://shop.starfinefoods.com/STAR-Olives/c/Star@Olives.

Disclaimer: I have an ongoing relationship with STAR Fine Foods for my recipes and photography using their wonderful products. This post is sponsored by STAR. I am compensated for my time and work and I am sent products as I request them. However, all opinions of the product stated in this post are 100% my own. I truly love their products!
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Gorgonzola Stuffed Olives

I don't throw huge parties for the new year celebration. I am far too exhausted from the last holiday and not in the mood to spend more time in the kitchen. Just a few friends and family and nothing fancy or elaborate is served.  I usually steamed some shrimp and make a few appetizers for all to enjoy. And when I want simple and delicious I can always count on Star Fine Foods to come through for me.  I love their products.

Like these cheese stuffed olives that are always a crowd pleaser. The soft, creamy Gorgonzola cheese combined with the salty olive makes for the perfect combination.

Gorgonzola Stuffed Olives

1 large jar of Star Fine Foods Queen Spanish Olives
1 block of firm Gorgonzola Cheese or Blue Cheese
4 cloves of Garlic, peeled
Star Fine Foods Extra Virgin Olive Oil For Vegetables

Open the jar of olives and pour the brine into a container to reserve for later.  Using a toothpick, remove the pimento from your olives. Then stuff each olive with the cheese. Wipe away any excess cheese and set aside.

Add about 3 tablespoons of the brine back into the jar the olives came in and then fill the rest of the jar with the olive oil.  Add the garlic cloves.  Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours or longer.  The olives will be good for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.  Enjoy! 

Where to buy Star Olive Oil and other products:

Arbequina Olive Oil: Raley’s, Savemart, Food Lion, select Walmarts and online at http://bit.ly/ArbequinaEVOO

Disclaimer: I have an ongoing relationship with STAR Fine Foods for my recipes and photography using their wonderful products. This post is sponsored by STAR. I am compensated for my time and work and I am sent products as I request them. However, all opinions of the product stated in this post are 100% my own. I truly love their products!
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Monday, December 22, 2014

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes and Apples

This is a side dish that my Mom made often with pork roast or pork chops and usually always with Ham at Easter. The combination of baked sweet potatoes and apples is so good! Now when I have time I make my Mom's exact recipe....but I have been known to take some shortcuts now and then. So I put both the long and short cut version up for you....both are equally as good.

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes and Apples

8 medium sweet potatoes, cooked until just tender
4 medium Gala or Fuji apples, sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup pecans, halves or pieces (optional)

Pierce sweet potatoes with a fork and microwave on high until just tender. Or you can pierce them and boil them whole. When cool enough to handle, peel sweet potatoes and cut in lengthwise slices about 1/2" thick.

Arrange layers of potato, apple slices and pecans (if using) in a greased baking dish. Melt the butter, brown sugar, salt, and nutmeg together and add the maple syrup. Pour over layers. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for about 35-40 minutes.

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes and Apples (Shortcut)     

8 medium sweet potatoes, cooked until just tender
1 21 ounce can apple pie filling
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, mix together cooked sweet potatoes, apple pie filling, brown sugar and cinnamon. Transfer to a medium microwave-safe dish. Microwave on high 5 minutes, or until the mixture is hot and bubbly.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

♥ Cranberry Orange Bread

This is the best bread! The orange zest and cranberry combo make it out of this world good! It is a beautiful holiday bread and I make it for breakfast and serve it warm out of the oven with coffee or tea. I toast it up the next day (if there is any left) and slather it with butter...yum! I love it because it's easy to make and especially because it never dries out. I bake it and I don't have to worry about leaving it out on the counter. I give this one away as Christmas gifts too! You'll need a dutch oven for this one....I use my lodge combo cast iron dutch oven (see link below).

Cranberry Orange Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon quick rise yeast
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup dried cranberries
zest of 1 large orange
Turbinado Sugar for topping (or any course sugar)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, yeast, cranberries and orange zest. Add water and almond extract. Mix until well combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12-18 hours in a warm draft-free spot. I make mine the night before so that it will be ready to bake in the morning.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place Dutch oven with lid in the oven, and heat for 30 minutes before adding dough. While the dutch oven preheats, pour dough on a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap until Dutch oven is preheated. Remove the Dutch oven, and drop in the ball-shaped dough. Cover, and return to oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and sprinkle with coarse sugar topping and then bake an additional 15 minutes. Next, remove bread from oven and Dutch oven. Allow to cool on a wire cooling rack before serving.

This recipe makes one round loaf. I use my Lodge Combo Cooker that I got at Amazon.com with my Welcome Home fan discount. Click on the link for a fantastic buy on this combo and order yours today. Proceeds go to the NO KILL Advocacy group to help save the lives of dogs and cats who are killed unnecessarily while waiting for their forever homes.


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Cinnamon Swirl Loaf with Vanilla Drizzle

I love this recipe and make it often. I tried it when I first saw it over at my friend Marie's blog at the English Kitchen because it looked so tempting. It was so good, I stayed with almost all her same ingredients with only a a few changes, like adding a brown sugar topping and a vanilla drizzle that made it just my perfect cup of tea! Thanks Marie! I love your recipes!

Cinnamon Swirl Loaf with Vanilla Drizzle 

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt

♥ Filling

6 tablespoons of light brown sugar, packed
2 full tablespoons of cinnamon
A dash of nutmeg

♥ Topping

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons of melted butter

For the Glaze

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Bread and Filling:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease your loaf pan (9 x 5 standard pan) with butter and then line it with parchment paper. I like to leave a slight overhang of paper on each end to use as handles to lift bread out later. Mix the butter, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, sugar, flour, soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Beat together until well combined, but do not over-beat.

Next, stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Spread half of the batter into the prepared baking tin. Sprinkle with half of the cinnamon sugar filling mixture. Then spread the remaining batter over top of that filling. Finally, sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar filling mixture. Now, using a round bladed knife gently cut through the batter to swirl the cinnamon sugar through.

Topping:   Sprinkle the brown sugar topping on the loaf and bake for 55 to 60 minutes or when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the loaf pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling completely. 

Glaze:  Make your glaze by whisking together sugar, milk, vanilla extract and softened butter in small bowl until well blended. Brush or drizzle on to warm bread allowing it to run over sides. Cut in slices and serve plain or toasted with butter.

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