Thursday, April 09, 2020

Ambrosia (AKA "The Pink Stuff")

Remember this pink stuff?  That's what we called it when we were kids. My brother and I used to pick out the marshmallows and cherries and leave the rest. My Mom never made Ambrosia but it was always on our holiday table.  A friend would bring it for Easter dinner. A coworker would bring it to the company picnic. The in-laws would bring it for Christmas and Thanksgiving an the neighbors would bring it to potluck. It used to just show up at every gathering. It still does!   But the Ambrosia I make today is very different from the old recipes that used mayonnaise or Miracle Whip. This is the modern day pink stuff!


Ambrosia (AKA "The Pink Stuff")

1 (8 oz.) tub of whipped topping, thawed
1 cup sour cream
1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple
1 (15 oz.) can mandarin orange segments
1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
1 (10 oz.) jar of maraschino cherry halves
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1 cup red or green seedless grapes, sliced in half (optional)

The most important step in making Ambrosia is to drain your fruit. I don't mean just put your hand over the can and allow some juices to run through. I mean dump it all out in a colander and let it drain in the sink for at least 3-4 hours. There is nothing worse than wet and soggy Ambrosia.

 In a medium bowl, combine whipped topping and sour cream. Add in coconut flakes and marshmallows. Then gently fold in the crushed pineapple, mandarin oranges, maraschino cherries and grapes and nuts, if using. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour before serving.

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The Perfect Carrot Cake

What makes the perfect Carrot Cake?  Well it has to be moist...that's the first rule. You can never have a dry cake. And it has to be dense...but not too heavy. It has to melt in your mouth without being mushy. It has to be full of flavor with just a hint of sweet spice. It has to have carrots, but not so many that you can taste them.  And the frosting has to be rich and creamy and it can't have that fake taste like you get on those cheap cakes at a grocery store. It has to have that perfect combination of sweet and tangy.  And the cake has to get better each day as the flavors all meld together.  And this is it my friends....this is the perfect Carrot Cake.

The Perfect Carrot Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 cups carrots, finely grated
2 cups pecans, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) round pans; Line bottom of the pans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add eggs and vegetable oil. Using a hand mixer, blend until combined. Add carrots and 1 1/2 cups pecans, if using.

Pour into pans. Bake for approximately 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Remove from pans, place on waxed paper and allow to cool completely before frosting.

2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, cut into cubes, at room temperature
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup heavy cream, cold
Using a mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter  until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down the side as necessary, Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon salt; gradually increase the mixer speed to medium-high, and beat until the sugar is incorporated and the frosting is fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes. 

With the mixer on medium-high, add the cream a few drops at time until it's all incorporated. Continue beating for 1 more minute until the frosting is slightly lighter in color and creamy.

To Assemble

Place one of the cake layers on a serving plate, and spread 1 cup of the frosting over the top. Top with the other layer, and use the remaining frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake.  Top with more pecans if desired.

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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups

Sometimes in life you just have to make important decisions.  Some of those decisions are major and require sudden change.  Sometimes those decisions are the best decisions you’ve ever made… the recent decision I have made to give up chocolate chip cookies for Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups.  Why you ask?  Because it’s not just a chocolate chip cookie….it’s a chocolate chip cookie  filled with whatever I want.  I mean why just eat a cookie when you can eat the cookie and the filling too?  This was one of those decisions that makes me very happy.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Scoop out the cookie dough with an ice cream scoop and then roll into 1 inch balls and place them in a very well-greased or sprayed muffin tin. Using something small and round, press the dough balls down so they form a cup shape. I use a small spice jar or my smallest measuring cup.

Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before removing from the pan.


1½ cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
3 egg yolks
3 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
whipped cream, to serve

Crack three egg yolks in a small bowl and set aside.
Use a double boiler or a glass bowl that will fit on top of a saucepan. Fill half full with hot simmering water. Pour in the cream and warm it for 3 or 4 minutes. Whisk in the vanilla, sugar and salt. Continue whisking until the sugar is dissolved.

Spoon a little of hot cream into the egg yolks to temper them, and then pour the remaining egg yolks into the milk mixture, stirring continuously for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the chopped chocolate and continue stirring until it melts, combining with the cream and eggs and thickening enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Pour the custard into cooled cookie cups and cover with plastic.  Refrigerate until set.  Top each cookie cup with your choice of sprinkles, white chocolate chips, whipped cream, or whatever you like.  For a real treat, fill them with vanilla ice cream and drizzle chocolate syrup on top! 
 Short Cuts:

Use refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough and roll into balls to make your cups. Use instant chocolate pudding mix as directed for your filling.

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Smothered Meatballs and Gravy

Did someone say comfort food?  I think this dish is the ultimate in comfort food. Beefy and delicious, these meatballs are smothered in a rich thick savory gravy and served over rice, egg noodles or mashed potatoes.  Wow! What a great dinner! 

One of my Mom’s favorite dishes to serve her family was meatballs.  She would just make up the recipe as she went along so it was sometimes hard to follow.  But after years of making them, I realized she made them exactly the way she imagined the flavor to be in her mind. I find that I now do the same thing after all these years.  I make them the way I think they should taste, and while it’s hard to even write my own recipe, I made an effort this time so that I could share them with you.

Smothered Meatballs and Gravy

2 pounds ground chuck
3/4 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 small jar of beef gravy
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup heavy cream

In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, garlic, breadcrumbs, eggs, salt, black pepper, and onions. Add 3 tablespoons of beef gravy to the mix. Reserve the remaining jar of gravy for later. If the mixture is too dry, add more gravy. If it is too wet, add more breadcrumbs.

Mix together with hands until everything is combined. Then shape into meatballs. You can  make larger meatballs to serve for dinner as you see in the photos, or smaller meatballs to serve as appetizers.
Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high.  Add the meatballs and brown on all sides until, about 7 to 10 minutes. Searing the meatballs locks in the flavor. Remove the meatballs to an ovenproof dish using a slotted spoon and place in the warmed oven.

Once all of the meatballs are cooked, decrease the heat to low and add the flour to the pan or skillet. Make sure you scrape up all the bits on the bottom of the skillet.  Whisk flour for about a minute or so or until lightly browned.

Gradually add the beef stock and whisk until sauce begins to thicken. Add in the Worcestershire sauce and stir. Add the heavy cream and continue to cook until the gravy reaches the desired consistency. Add the remaining gravy from the jar and whisk to blend.  Remove the meatballs from the oven, and add to gravy. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.  
Serve over buttered egg noodles, rice or mashed potatoes!

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