Friday, February 12, 2016

Overnight Coffee Cake

Sunday is Valentine's Day. Have you ordered your roses? Reserved the corner table at a fancy restaurant? Put the champagne on ice? No? Okay, good. Me neither.

Overnight Coffee Cake is your perfect plan for a lovely Valentine's Day. Prep the batter the night before and pop it in the oven while you're bleary-eyed the next morning. By the time you've changed out of your jammies and brewed your tea, it's ready to devour, perfectly warm from the oven. Bonus points if you bring it to your honey while they're still snuggled in the covers. Double bonus points if the breakfast tray includes a mimosa. Just saying...

Let's get cooking!

Overnight Coffee Cake
From the Randall Church Cookbook (You know I love a good church cookbook recipe.)

Coffee Cake:
2 cups flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup buttermilk*
2/3 cup butter, melted
2 eggs

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Add buttermilk, butter, and eggs. Beat at low speed until combined, then continue to beat at medium speed for 3 minutes. (If you don't feel like using your mixer, I had success beating the batter by hand with a whisk.) Pour batter into a greased 9" x 13" baking dish.

Combine topping ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over batter. Cover and refrigerate 8-12 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Uncover coffee cake and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve warm.

*Don't have buttermilk? Don't let that stop you! You can easily make a buttermilk substitute. Mix 1 cup milk and 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar. Let it sit on the counter for about 5 minutes until it thickens and starts to curdle, then proceed with the recipe.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Pressure Cooker Pot Roast

I was pleasantly surprised this Christmas to see that my husband paid attention to our kitchen equipment gift guide – especially when I found a pressure cooker under the tree.

It took me a while to finally give the cooker a try.  Sam (my youngest) and my DH started to wonder if I was afraid to use it . (I was! I've never seen anyone use a pressure cooker except on TV and I kept envisioning a kitchen explosion if I put the lid on wrong.) Amy kept assuring me it was foolproof – and she was right (see her recipes for Midwestern Vegetable-Beef SoupShrimp Curry and Potato Soup.) I am now a convert!

I took the plunge with a pot roast. Every time I cook one in my slow cooker it comes out a little dry. Not so with the pressure cooker. This roast was moist and packed with flavor. The boys loved it and there were hardly any leftovers.

The cooking process was pretty fast and easy –  once I got the hang of turning on the pressure cooker. It shut off on me twice after just a few minutes. I eventually realized that I didn't let the cooker cool off long enough after browning the meat and sautéing the onions.

After solving this problem, it was smooth sailing. I did text Amy at the end of the cooking process to figure out if I really needed to follow the manufacturer's recommendation for using the Natural Pressure Release when cooking roasts. This is when you let the pressure reduce on its own (as opposed to releasing it all at once) while the cooker is on the "keep warm" setting. This method also extends the cooking time.

I ended up doing a quick release after letting the pressure cooker sit for about 20 minutes and I'm glad I did. The roast might have become dry if it continued to cook much longer.

So, dear readers, do you use a pressure cooker? What's your favorite recipe for this kitchen appliance?

Mangia! Mangia!

Pressure Cooker Pot Roast

1 3-pound pot roast (bottom round)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup beef broth, low sodium preferred

Use a sharp knife to score (or cut an X into) any large portions of fat on the beef. Season beef on all sides with salt and pepper.
My Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker. 

**Note: If your pressure cooker does not have the brown and sauté functions, simply use a large non-stick skillet to brown the meat and sauté the onions, and then place them into the pressure cooker.

Select browning function on the pressure cooker. Add olive oil to cooking pot. When hot, add meat and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Remove meat and put it on a plate.

Change setting to sauté, and add onions and garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes. Add thyme, basil and oregano and cook for another 5 minutes. Add drained tomatoes and beef broth an cook for another 5 minutes.

Return the meat to the pot and cover with some of the onions and tomatoes. Let cool for 5 or 10 minutes.

Cover with lid and lock into place. Select High Pressure and set timer for 99 minutes. When beep sounds, do a quick pressure release. Be sure to tip lid away from you when you open it, to let the steam escape.

Place the pot roast and most of the tomatoes and onions on a serving platter and keep warm. Skim fat from sauce in pot. Select simmer function and cook for 5 to 10 minutes to thicken.

Slice pot roast and serve with sauce.

Monday, February 8, 2016

French Chocolate Cake

Recall from last week's post Penny's birthday dinner -- Parmesan and Yogurt Crusted Chicken, Carolina Collard Greens, scalloped potatoes and this nearly flourless French Chocolate Cake.

I made this cake exactly per the recipe in pastry chef David Lebovitz's memoir, The Sweet Life in Paris. I selected it because it offers something for everyone in the George family -- high quality dark chocolate for maman and a cake that doesn't require icing, which les enfants don't like anyhow. Plus, it is so rich that a teeny piece is perfect -- and perfect for papa who doesn't have a huge sweet tooth.

I highly recommend the cake and the book, which explained a lot about Parisians that I already knew but plenty that I didn't. Sweet Life is also full of recipes that appear easy to do -- and eat. In fact, the chocolate cake was my second dish from the book. When I made the Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Almonds, I swear my house smelled just like Chez Omar, the popular Moroccan restaurant in Paris' Le Marais neighborhood.


French Chocolate Cake
From The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz

9 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch loaf pan and line the bottom with a strip of parchment paper.

In a large bowl set over a pan of simmering water or likewise in a double boiler, heat the chocolate and butter together until just melted and smooth. A note about the chocolate, for this and for homemade brownies I use Scharffen Berger Baking Bar - 70% Bittersweet Chocolate. Worth the 10 bucks.

Remove chocolate and butter from the heat and stir in half the sugar, then the egg yolks, and flour. (I love this part from the book: "You don't need to measure the half-quantity of sugar exactly. Just pretend you're a French woman cooking in her home kitchen and don't worry about it.)

Whip egg whites with the salt, using an electric hand mixer or whisk. Keep whipping until the whites form soft peaks. Gradually whip in the remaining sugar until the whites are smooth and hold their shape when the whisk or beaters are lifted.

Use a rubber spatula to fold one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Next fold in the remaining egg whites just until the mixture is smooth and no visible white streaks remain.

Pour batter into pan, scraping sides of the bowl so you bake up all that goodness. Smooth the top of the batter with rubber spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Do not overbake.

Let cake cook in pan before cutting and serving.

The cake can be stored for up to three days. Some French women believe it is better after it sits for a day or two. The cake can also be wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to one month.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Cheesy Grits Casserole with Sausage

A few weeks back, the Seattle Seahawks played the Carolina Panthers in a playoff game. Since I'm a Seattle resident and Amy hails from the land of the Panthers, we had a friendly little wager that we posted to the HDHH Facebook page. If the Hawks won the game, Amy would need to prep a meal featuring salmon. If the Panthers won, I owed her grits.

Since the Panthers are playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday, I think you all know who's been in the kitchen this week.

When the husband and I were living in Charlotte, we enjoyed many tasty meals. Southerners can cook, y'all. And they bring out their A-game for a church potluck. One woman from my ladies' Bible study brought to one such gathering a cheesy grits casserole studded with sausage, and it totally blew my mind. Losing the bet to Amy seemed like the perfect opportunity to re-create this delicious dish.

If you're looking for the perfect brunch dish or pre-Super Bowl breakfast, Cheesy Grits Casserole with Sausage is just the ticket. Savory, rich and creamy, it's full of southern flavors. Plus it's hearty enough to stick to your ribs and keep you full for the big game.

Hope you enjoy this tribute to the south, the Carolina Panthers, and my time in the beautiful city of Charlotte. Keep pounding!

Let's get cooking!

P.S. Have you liked us on Facebook yet? If not, please do!

Cheesy Grits Casserole with Sausage
Adapted from
Serves: 6

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 pound ground sausage
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup grits
Salt and pepper
4 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 3/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8" square baking dish and set aside.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high. Add sausage and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until sausage is cooked through and some pieces are nice and crisp, about 8 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon onion powder and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Drain sausage and set aside.

Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in grits. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes, until broth is absorbed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, milk, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir into grits and cook over low heat for a couple minutes. Stir in 1 cup cheese and cooked sausage. Pour into prepared baking dish and top with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until set in the middle.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Fried Apples

My oldest son Max loves fried apples, and when he asks for them it's usually because he sees a package in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.

When he requested them for dinner recently, I decided to make them on my own. Super simple and so tasty as a side dish, fried apples also make a great dessert. Max even took leftovers in his school lunch.

Many recipes for cooked apples call for lots of white sugar, but you don't need that much. Use a smaller amount of brown sugar and let the sweetness of the apples stand on their own.

I love to pair cooked apples with pork, which is what we did when I made these. They're also excellent with vanilla ice cream.

Mangia! Mangia!

Fried Apples

4 large apples, cored and sliced (I used 2 Fuji and 2 Granny Smith)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Warm a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter and let it melt. Add apples, cinnamon and brown sugar. Cook, stirring often, until apples are softened and sauce is bubbly.

Once apples are tender, heat a little longer until sauce thickens. You can up the temp a bit to make this happen.

Serve warm with pork chops or over ice cream.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Carolina Collard Greens

My younger daughter -- and the more adventuresome eater of my two girls -- turns 7 tomorrow. We celebrated on Saturday with a home cooked early birthday dinner. Penny's taste buds were set on having collard greens.

Yes, my child is weird. A child of the South and a weird collard craving, blue cheese nibbling, quinoa salad lunching kid. But finally someone else in my house other than me appreciates collards, so I happily fixed a big mess of greens.

Here are some Southern inspired dishes that would go well with collards: Family Cornbread, Slow Cooker Pulled PorkTangy Slow Cooker Pork with Onion Jam, Slow Cooker Chicken & Biscuits, Pecan-Crusted Chicken Breasts and a Deviled Egg Sampler.

However, our birthday dinner was a little more eclectic. We had Parmesan and Yogurt Crusted Chicken, scalloped potatoes and a nearly flourless French chocolate cake.

Penny, by the way, had two helpings of collards.


PS: I call these Carolina Collard Greens in honor of Cam Newton, QB1 for the Super Bowl 50-bound Carolina Panthers. In an interview following the Panthers' NFC Championship win, Cam compared "instant grits" to "slow cooked collard greens" when asked to talk about what's happened to him since being drafted. Go, Panthers! Keep pounding!

PPS: You might recall that Erin is bringing you grits following the Seattle Seahawks' playoff loss to the Panthers. Grits are coming later this week.

Carolina Collard Greens

2 pounds of collard greens, each leaf cut in half to completely remove center stem/vein and torn into 2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 pieces bacon
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch or two of crushed red pepper
4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar

Rinse prepared collard pieces under cold water and  set aside.

In your largest pot -- like a pasta or lobster pot -- heat olive oil over medium heat. (Trust me, the collards cook way down.)

Add bacon and cook for a minute. Add onions and cook until softened, about four minutes. Add garlic and red pepper and cook until fragrant, about one minute.

Remove bacon and cut into pieces and return to pot. (Or you can do what I do, which is use kitchen scissors to cut bacon while it is still in the pot.) Add collards and stir to incorporate with other ingredients the best you can. Add broth and vinegar.

Bring pot to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer for at least 45 minutes.

Use slotted spoon to serve.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Saturday Shout-Out: Water Wheel Crackers

As the bringer of hot dinner in my house, I obviously enjoy cooking and baking. But sometimes, I just don't want to do it.

Like when my two boys are completely over scheduled. We actually had a week with each of these activities: drama club, math club, school newspaper, baseball and basketball practices, basketball games for each kid, a math competition and a birthday party. Next week we add a second baseball practice for each boy (Ack!)

Phew. Needless to say, I get a little bit exhausted some nights. Enter the cheese-and-cracker-dinner. We do this pretty often, and sometimes add carrots, cucumbers and humus to the menu. But what really ramps up these quick and easy dinners are the lovely Water Wheel wafers and cheese twists.

The Australian makers of wafers and cheese twists asked me to test out their line of crackers and I have to say: We. Are. Addicted.

The airy and crisp wafers are mild in flavor and very thin, so that you can actually taste whatever you pair them with. The cheese twists (parmesan or cheddar) are a sour dough base with bits of cheese baked in, which is a nice spin on traditional orange cheddar twists. They are delicious with prosciutto wrapped around them or broken up and sprinkled on top of soup.

I also really like the corn wafers with a bowl of Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (above.)

Confession: I hid the crackers away so that my kids would not devour them, but once the crazy in our lives jumped into overdrive, they became a lifesaver, especially during rushed dinners like this one:

I paired Tuscan Style Water Wheel wafers and parmesan twists with a New Year's Eve antipasto platter. All the crackers were gone by midnight!

I took a tray of Original Wafers, cheese and mini salami to a neighborhood gathering and the plate was empty long before the party ended.

And I'm pretty sure we'll be seeing these crisps during our Super Bowl party, too.

Sam, my youngest, likes to fill a plate with any flavor wafer (Sesame & Poppy Seed anyone?) and eat them for a snack. He can finish a box by himself in two days. Luckily we have a Fresh Market in town, so I'm able to restock pretty easily. You can also order the wafers and twists online at or

If you decide to give Water Wheel wafers or cheese twists a try, let us know how you like them – and how you use them!