Thursday, December 11, 2014

{Giveaway} Dessert Mash-Ups

Published by Ulysses Press

The holiday baking season is in full swing. My list of goodies that I intend to prepare gets longer and longer. Just when I think I've finalized my list, another recipe catches my eye and begs to be baked.  Then, a cookbook like Dessert Mash-Ups by Dorothy Kern comes along and I have to start editing my list to add another treat or two. You are probably already familiar with Dorothy Kern. She writes the dessert blog, Crazy for Crust. While I don't know Dorothy personally, I have followed her blog for a few years now and have always been impressed with her work.

What is a dessert mash-up? A dessert mash-up combines two desserts to make one unique treat. Dorothy has certainly created some unique combinations in this book: Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie, Strawberry Pie Cupcakes, Cinnamon Roll Cookies, Lemon Meringue Pie Fudge, and Snickers Cake Rolls just to name a few. The cookbook is divided into eight delicious chapters:
  • Breakfast but Better
  • Candy Concoctions
  • Cookies, Brownies, and Bars ~ Together at Last!
  • Pie Surprise
  • Cake & Cupcake Creations
  • New Takes on Cheesecake
  • Double Dips
  • Holiday Mash-Ups

This is a user-friendly cookbook which is perfect for all level of home cooks. Each recipe features common ingredients, clear directions, enticing photographs of completed dishes, and helpful hints from the author. Even if you're not familiar with Dorothy's blog, you'll appreciate the creativity that went into this fun cookbook. Why eat one dessert when you can have two?

As I work on my Christmas baking and prepare treats for the last week of school before Christmas break, I have decided to add these Sugar Cookie Dough Cups to my line-up. These will be a delicious and surprising departure from classic peanut butter cups. I'm going to follow Dorothy's advice below and prepare them in a mini muffin pan. I have jars of sprinkles at the ready!

Photo and recipe provided by Ulysses Press

Sugar Cookie Dough Cups
Recipe and excerpt from Dessert Mash-Ups by Dorothy Kern

My father-in-law was a sugar-cookie fanatic. Every Christmas I’d make our family sugar cookies and I’d have to make him his own extra batch so he wouldn’t eat all of ours (and he would have!). Over the years I started making lots of other sugar-cookie treats, from bars to candy, to give him for every holiday and birthday. I made these in his memory, and I know that he would have loved them (and eaten them all without gaining an ounce).

Yield 12 Prep Time 45 minutes Chill Time 1 hour 15 minutes

1⁄4 cup (1⁄2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons whole milk
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
12 to 16 ounces vanilla-flavored melting chocolate
Sprinkles (optional)

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the vanilla, milk, and flour.

2. Form the dough into a disk. Place between two sheets of waxed paper on a cutting board. Roll out to 1⁄4 inch thick. I like to peel the waxed paper off the top, then flip the dough over and peel it off the bottom after every few rolls so that it doesn’t stick. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

3. Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut 24 circles of dough, rerolling as necessary. Place half the dough rounds on top of the other half, for a total of 12. Refrigerate until ready to assemble cups.

4. Melt the melting chocolate according to the package directions. (See Candy Dipping Tips.)

5. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of melting chocolate into the bottom of each liner, enough to coat the bottom. Tap the pan to settle the candy and release any air bubbles.

6. Place one cookie dough round in each muffin liner. Top with
1 to 2 tablespoons more melting chocolate, spreading as necessary to make sure that the two edges of chocolate meet. Tap the pan again to release air bubbles. Top with sprinkles. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. These can also be frozen.

Tip: These are a big dose of sweet! To make them more bite-size, use a mini muffin pan, with mini muffin liners and a 1-inch round cookie cutter. You can also make these with your favorite flavor of cookie dough. Just substitute 1 tablespoon of milk for each egg called for in the recipe to make an eggless cookie dough, and you can omit any leavening that is called for. Use vanilla or chocolate candy melts, depending on your cookie dough flavor.

Disclaimer: The publisher provided me with a review copy of this cookbook; however, the opinion expressed here is my own.


Good news! The publisher has been generous enough to offer one of my readers a copy of Dessert Mash-Ups. Enter to win in the widget below. It may take a few moments to load. Deadline to enter is December 18, 2014. Good luck!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

{Giveaway} Southern Living Community Cookbook

Published by Oxmoor House

The first cookbook that I ever read was a community cookbook that my mom owned. It was published by a local church and is one of the only cookbooks that she still has to this day. I vividly remember its pink glossy cover, black plastic spine, and yellowed interior pages. There were no photographs, but I didn't need them. I had no trouble imagining what the outcome of each recipe would be.

As I became an adult and my love for cooking grew, so did my collection of community cookbooks which were given to me by family and friends. Tea Time at the Masters was gifted to me by my late aunt from Augusta, Georgia. Later, I received Savannah Style as a wedding gift. I still cherish both of them. These two community cookbooks along with many others are celebrated in The Southern Living Community Cookbook by Sheri Castle, an author who fully understands the fellowship of food.

The Southern Living Community Cookbook has a traditional layout which I always prefer, being old school and all. The recipes begin with appetizers and move through main dishes, sides, soups, desserts and baked goods and end with beverages and preserved foods. Being familiar with Southern Living, I recognized a few of the recipes here and there because I had prepared them in the past. I can personally attest to the quality of the Sausage, Bean and Spinach Dip and the Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole. There is not enough room here in this review to list all of the recipes that I want to try. Just trust me when I say that this is the perfect cookbook for fans of southern cuisine.

I won't keep you in suspense any longer. I absolutely loved everything about this book from the cover and interior art work to the selection of recipes and photographs to the incorporation of vintage recipes from cookbooks past. If I were to publish my own cookbook, I would want it to look just like this one, a visual masterpiece. What an impressive character it has!

A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, my husband decided that he wanted to add Brunswick Stew to our Thanksgiving menu. I thought it an odd choice, but I knew where to find the perfect recipe. We smoked, chopped, assembled, and simmered ~ a real labor of love. But, in the end, my husband ended up with the large pot of stew that he desired. We may have a new Thanksgiving tradition on our hands.

Photo and recipe provided by Oxmoor House

Brunswick Stew
Makes about 6 qt.

Hickory wood chips
2 (2 1⁄2 lb.) whole chickens
1 (3-lb.) Boston butt pork roast
3 (14 1⁄2-oz.) cans diced tomatoes
6 cups frozen whole kernel  yellow corn, thawed
6 cups frozen butter beans, thawed
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups ketchup
1⁄2 cup white vinegar
1⁄2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1⁄4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. hot sauce

1. Soak wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes. Prepare charcoal fire in smoker; let burn  20 minutes. Drain wood chips, and place on coals. Place water pan in smoker; add water to depth of fill line. Remove and discard giblets from chicken. Tuck wings under; tie with string, if  desired. Place chicken and pork on lower food rack; cover with smoker lid. Cook chicken 21⁄2 hours; cook pork 6 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 155°. Let cool. Remove chicken from bone. Chop chicken and pork.

2. Stir together chicken, pork, tomatoes, corn, butter beans, onions, broth, ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and hot sauce in a 6-qt. Dutch oven. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, 2-1⁄2 to 3 hours or until thickened. Stir more often as stew gets thicker.

From the kitchen of Tim Smith
Birmingham, Alabama 

Disclaimer: The publisher provided me with a review copy of this cookbook; however, the opinion expressed here is my own.


Oxmoor House has been generous enough to provide me the opportunity to host a giveaway for my readers. One of you lucky readers will win a copy of the Southern Living Community Cookbook. The deadline for entry is Sunday, December 14th. Enter the giveaway at the widget below (may take a few moments to load). Good luck!

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Review: Southern Living's Christmas All Through the South

Published by Oxmoor House

Yes, we're right in the middle of the Christmas season. There's really something magical about this time of the year. I just want to freeze it and dwell in it for as long as possible. With the Christmas movies and music playing on the television and radio since the beginning of November, the season does seem like it is expanding past the Thanksgiving to Christmas time frame. Some people may think that it's too much, but I'm loving it!

One of my personal Christmas traditions is spending quiet time looking through my Christmas cookbooks by the light of the Christmas tree. I have several Southern Living Christmas books that I enjoy reading around this time every year. I was so excited to find out that there is a new book this season, Southern Living Christmas All Through the South, published by Oxmoor House. This is a massive book, close to 400 pages, that is filled with gorgeous photographs of Christmas scenes, decor, and recipes, and personal essays that touch on the true spirit of Christmas.

Christmas All Through the South takes its readers on a journey through some of the most beautiful cities and small towns that the south has to offer and shows them off in their full, holiday splendor. I am fortunate that I am able to easily travel to two of the south's most beautiful cities, Savannah and Charleston, and view this Christmas spirit for myself. However, you don't have to travel to view lovely Christmas decor. This book features beautifully decorated homes to inspire you to turn your own home into a holiday showcase.

When I think of the holidays, I always think of food. What am I going to bake? How much do I need to cook? The holidays are a time for special indulgences. The holidays wouldn't be complete for my husband without a cheese ball and crab dip. For me, the holidays are a time to pull out all of those dessert recipes that I've been collecting and go on a baking marathon.

Anyone who is a fan of Southern Living knows that the recipes featured in the company's magazines and cookbooks are top notch. I've made many of these recipes over the years and have always been pleased with the results. There have been times when I've unveiled a dish at a gathering and someone would gasp and say, "That's a Southern Living recipe; I saw it in the magazine." As you can imagine, the recipes in this book are especially designed to create awe-inspiring moments at your Christmas gathering.

There were so many gorgeous recipes that I had a hard time deciding which one to request to feature in this review. Yes, there were mouth-watering bowls of shrimp and grits and majestic Christmas cakes. But, how could one resist a plate of German Chocolate Pancakes? I can't even imagine...

Southern Living Christmas All Through the South is more than a book. It is now part of my Christmas traditions and I can't wait for all of the holidays to come when I will cozy up with this book to discover and rediscover all it has to offer year after year.

Photo and recipe provided by Oxmoor House

German Chocolate Pancakes
Makes about 20 pancakes • Hands-on 35 min. • Total 55 min., including syrup

2 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup unsweetened cocoa
11⁄2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. table salt
2 cups milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1⁄2 (4-oz.) sweet chocolate baking bar, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
German Chocolate Syrup
Garnishes: coconut flakes, chocolate curls

1. Whisk together first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together milk and next 4 ingredients in another bowl. Gradually stir milk mixture into flour mixture just until moistened.

2. Pour about 1⁄4 cup batter for each pancake onto a hot, buttered griddle or large nonstick skillet. Cook
3 to 4 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look dry and cooked. Turn and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until done. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet, and keep warm in a 200° oven up to 30
minutes. Serve with German Chocolate Syrup.

Note: When using a griddle, heat it to 350°.

German Chocolate Syrup
Makes 11⁄2 cups • Hands-on 15 min. • Total 20 min.

2⁄3 cup chopped pecans
2⁄3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 (5-oz.) can evaporated milk
1⁄2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1⁄4 cup butter, melted
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake pecans and coconut in a single layer in a shallow pan  5 to 7 minutes or
until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

2. Cook evaporated milk and next 3 ingredients in a heavy 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, 8 to 10 minutes or until mixture bubbles and begins to thicken. Remove from heat, and stir in
vanilla, pecans, and coconut. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 week.

To reheat: Microwave syrup in a microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 10 to 15 seconds or just until warm; stir
until smooth.

Disclaimer: I was provided a review copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review: GoPicnic Ready-to-Eat Meals

Do you have a stash of food in a drawer at work? Oh, I hope so. I know I'm not the only one. Most of my coworkers have a drawer that is dedicated to snacks and non-perishable meals. Obviously, we don't go out to lunch very often.

If you do have a food drawer and are looking for something new to add to it, you should try these ready-to-eat meals from GoPicnic. GoPicnic has a variety of breakfast, lunch, and snacks that come in convenient packages. You can get them as complete meals or buy single products. Here are just a few of the varieties they have to offer:

  • Breakfast Meals - Chocolate Almond Butter and Croissant, Cinnamon Spread and Multi-grain Bagel Chips, Maple Turkey Sausage and Fruit-Nut Mix
  • Lunch/Dinner Meals - Beef Cheese & Pita Chips, Blackbean Dip and Plantain Chips, Red Pepper Hummus and Pita Chips, Almond Butter & Crackers, and Salami and Cheese
  • Snacks - Almond Butter with Multigrain Crackers, Flexible Fruit, Cheese Spreads, Black Bean Dip and Tortilla Chips
In addition to a large variety of products, these products are also healthy and delicious. As stated on the GoPicnic web site: GoPicnic®’s palate-pleasing breakfasts, lunches and snacks are also available for a wide range of food diet restrictions including gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, non-GMO and kosher options. All GoPicnic meals contain no artificial colors, flavors, trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup or added MSG.

You may order these ready-to-eat meals and snacks directly from GoPicnic or you may purchase them at a retailer near you such as Target, Walgreens, Costco, Kroger, Whole Foods, Cost-Plus World Market, Albertsons, Sprouts, K-Mart, Hy-Vee, Giant Eagle, Paradies & Hudson News airport store.

Contents of the Almond Butter and Crackers Ready-to-Eat Meal

As described on the GoPicnic site: Get ready for creamy almond butter, crunchy multigrain crackers, a tutti-fruit-i fruit & seed blend, an organic strawberry flexible fruit strip, & a vanilla chewy rice crisp bar for dessert!

I thoroughly enjoyed the almond butter meal. The almond butter is all-natural so had to be stirred with the wooden spoon that is included in the box. I spread it on the Flatbed Crackers. These crackers had a hint of sesame flavor which I'm always a fan of and the sesame flavor worked well with the almond butter. I finished the meal off with the vanilla rice crisp bar and the strawberry fruit strip - both were fun, delicious treats. This meal is definitely drawer-worthy and I'm definitely going to search for more of these meals to bring to work.

 Contents of the Salami and Cheese Ready-to-Eat Meal

Per the GoPicnic site: Get ready for hardwood-smoked beef salami slices, creamy Asiago cheese spread, crunchy olive oil & sea salt cracker, Cashew Medley fruit & nut mix (with yogurt chips!), and chocolate pillows for dessert.

Since my husband is a fan of salami and cheese, I've saved this meal for him. However, I did sneak in and eat the chocolate pillows. This sweet treat was delicious! I hope he doesn't miss it...

Again, these are the perfect meals to keep in your food drawer at work, for your child's lunchbox, to take on road trips and to have available for camping and hunting trips. I'm looking forward to trying some of the other varieties that the company has to offer.

Disclaimer: I was provided product samples in exchange for an honest review.