Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Asher is Two!

    It seems unbelievable that Asher is two! Yet, it seems as though he's always been with us. What on earth did we do before we had him? He has filled our lives with such joy! 

   So much has happened between his first and second birthdays. He lost his Papa Sutton and cousin Ryker.  He gained cousins Willow and Rhett, as well as a little Peruvian cousin due in June.  He became a big brother to Jackson Scott in September. He learned to walk (first step on February 22nd). He learned to climb on the coffee table and dance (one of his few words). He went from crying at Bible study to running into his class without telling me bye.  He grew from a baby to a toddler. *sniff sniff*

   Asher has such a sweet spirit. He gives hugs without abandon; everyone is his friend! He almost always gets complimented on his behavior by strangers while we're out running errands. His energy level seems to never fade.  

    Asher's two year old favorites:
       (Real) Food-Spaghetti
       Word- Please 
       Activity- Wagon rides, pretending to drive 
       Sibling- Jackson :)
       Instrument-Piano, but prefers to play it with the drumsticks
       Toy- Trucks
       Day- Sunday (a whole day of socializing is what Asher considers heavenly)

Happy birthday, Asher bud! 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Pecan Pie

    There's something about having visitors that makes trying new recipes seem like a great idea. My parents came up for the Thanksgiving weekend, and they were my gracious guinea pigs for about five new recipes. Pecan pie/crust, buffalo chicken chili, pancake squares, cinnamon pancake squares, chicken pesto pasta (including a new pesto recipe), chocolate cake, chocolate frosting, biscuits and sausage gravy...okay, so technically eleven recipes. I love it when my parents visit! They're such willing guinea pigs, wonderful company, and somehow turn their vacation into a vacation for us. I seriously doubt Asher would notice if Alec and I left while my parents were here, and my kitchen is still basking in the ambiance of my mother's touch.

    To be fair, the true guinea pigs for the pecan pie were our Henson friends. Gotta test Thanksgiving recipes before the big day, right?  This Pioneer Woman recipe is delicious! I might have added a bit more vanilla than Ree recommends...I'm a bit of a vanilla fiend. The pie crust recipe yields quite a tasty concoction. I split it in half, as it created enough dough for two pies. And, as the recipe suggested, I froze the dough. It turned out flakey as promised! As this was only my second attempt at homemade crust, moving the rolled out product from the counter to the pie dish was interesting. 


       But, it's fixable!


    Tasty tasty. Pecan pie is the bomb diggity!  

    The second time around, Dad helped me transfer the crust dough:

    Much better!

    The final product is pretty similar to the recipe in the back of Karo syrup bottles. This recipe seems to have just a bit more depth. Mayhaps it will show up around Christmas time in miniature pie form!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Cookies for Breakfast?

    You read that correctly, the Suttons now eat cookies for breakfast! I ran into this gem of a recipe on Sally's Baking Addiction. The recipe itself is a cinch, gathering ingredients was the hardest part. I ended up finding cranberry apple butter at Trader Joes (and picked up some pumpkin butter to try out in the next few batches).

    So far I've made two batches. Each batch received the basic ingredients of the recipe, with the exception of cranberry apple butter instead of plain, honey instead of syrup, and peanut butter instead of almond butter. The additions were slightly different. I ditched the cranberries, as I don't like cooked fruit. Or dried fruit. Have I mentioned I'm a super picky eater? Our cookies received a healthy dose of Ghirardelli 60% dark chocolate chips, chopped walnuts and 1/4 cup of ground flax seed. In one batch I added a tablespoon of cocoa powder, which I would definitely do again. 

    The cookies are delicious! Their consistency reminds me of no bake cookies, but really thick. Asher loves them, which is wonderful. He needed something to replace yogurt, and this more than does the trick!

Pulled Pork Barbecue

    Have you ever wondered where the Boston Butt got its name? The moniker originated around the Revolutionary time period. The Boston aspect comes from the way pork shoulder was cut in Boston, and the latter word comes from the barrel in which the pork was packed. Barrels were also known as butts. Somewhere along the way, Boston Butt stuck. Seems rather unfortunate for shoulder to get stuck with a rump label, doesn't it?

    Tangent aside, let's talk pulled pork. My dad is a barbecue master. The Cornish hen, the ribs, the steak (oh, the steak!), and the pulled pork... For the pulled pork enjoyed at many a family gathering, Dad trims the meat, uses a dry rub and injects marianade, sits it in the fridge overnight, and smokes them on a low temperature for a long time. My apologies for the scant details--I'm not much of a smoker myself. Hehe. The dry rub (Sorry Boys) has a delicious flavor, and is the creation of a friend of Dad's (he also happens to be my former dentist).  On smoking days, Dad has the whole neighborhood smelling amazing. Once they're cooked, Dad uses the butcher knife method of 'pulling', which works exactly as you're picturing. He then juices the meat up with a tasty concoction and lets it sit in the slow cooker to stay warm until the party gets started. 

    We moved to South Carolina about two years ago. South Carolina is basically the Holy Land of pulled pork barbecue. It's even broken into four regions based on flavor prevalence. 

   Vinegar and pepper is my personal favorite, likely because I only had it growing up when visiting my grandparents in South Carolina. Interestingly, this flavor was brought to South Carolina by the Scots. Mustard style, here thanks to German immigrants, seems to be the prevalent flavor in the Charleston area, and happens to be Alec's favorite. Light tomato is a mix of the vinegar and pepper and ketchup, more or less. Finally, the heavy tomato flavor is what most people in the country associate with barbecue. If you want to read about barbecue history, click here. It's an interesting read!

    Given the state we moved to, I decided I'd better become adept at making barbecue. The first method I tried consisted of throwing a boston butt in the slow cooker overnight, defatting it the next day, and shredding it in the KitchenAid. We added sauce as we ate it. The only way this method changed over the past two years was that I started adding mustard sauce while shredding it. Using the slow cooker almost guarantees the pork is going to end up tender and juicy. The one dry batch I made was due to over shredding it in huge KitchenAid. I imagine it's much harder to attain the same tenderness using a smoker, though Dad certainly comes close. 

    Recently, my cousin Rachel shared this slow cooker pulled pork recipe with me. The new flavor was wonderful; it seemed to have a Moroccan flair to it. My favorite difference was the smell while it was cooking. When a boston butt is cooking without the additions of this recipe, I spend the whole day checking for dirty diapers. The end result is always delicious, but the smell of it cooking...ick! This recipe had me dying to taste test the meat within the first two hours of cooking. After it was done, I went ahead and used the suggested shredding methods of two forks. The KitchenAid is definitely more effective, and it allows you more options in regards to how finely shredded the barbecue is. 

    As you can see, there are countless ways to prepare barbecue. The cooking process, the flavor, the pulling method...there's so much potential! 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Drip Beef

    Oh, Pioneer Woman, how I love thee!  Not only is her food delicious, her recipes are practically foolproof due to her presentation. If you haven't checked out her website, do yourself a favor and click here. Knowing what food should look like at each step is a wonderful thing.  The link goes to her drip beef recipe, which was our game day food today.

    The basic recipe appealed more to me, so that's what we enjoyed while watching the Noles beat up on NC State this afternoon. I have no food pictures (the Pioneer Woman's are more than enough), but here's a random one of our mini Noles:

    Is the high five for the delicious drip beef sandwiches, or a touchdown? 

    Anycahoots. In the absence of a Dutch oven, I used my biggest pot with its ill fitting lid. This is probably the reason there was no juice left for sandwich dipping. They were also on the salty side. Regardless, the drip beef sandwiches were delicious! 

Sutton ratings:
Alec: Pretty good
Bekah: 4/5
Asher: Actually chewed and swallowed roast for the first time!

Whipped Cream

    This morning, I had every intention of making biscuits and sausage gravy...until I realized our butter supply is practically non existent. Thus, a grocery run became my new intention...until I saw that it was 38 degrees outside. That's when Alec suggested making hot chocolate. Yum!

    A replica of Starbucks Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate was on our menu this week, until I found Publix doesn't carry English toffee syrup. So, our hot chocolate was created from the basic recipe on Hershey's cocoa boxes.  The whipped cream, however, was a delectable masterpiece. 

Have you seen the picture on Pinterest of the cream filled strawberries? Pinterest actually removed the one I pinned; it seems the original source wasn't too fond of their creation going viral. Anyhew. Normal whipped cream doesn't hold it's shape long enough to use on desserts that won't be immediately consumed. Considering we weren't planning on using all the whipped cream at once, I decided to add some gelatin to my recipe.  Here's what I did:

2 T cold water
1.5 tsp gelatin
1.5 c heavy whipping cream
1/2 c powdered sugar 
1 tsp vanilla

Pour heavy whipping cream in cold mixing bowl (I had mine in the freezer for awhile), set on a medium speed

Combine water and gelatin in small mason jar
Set the glass with the gelatin mixture in a saucepan of simmering water
Stir until gelatin is completely liquified, remove from heat

Set mixer at a higher speed; once it starts thickening, add sugar and vanilla
Add gelatin to whipped cream as it's still whipping
Whip until the cream forms peaks

At this point, I created a fabulous pastry bag:

And topped the hot chocolate in my favorite mug: 

Sutton ratings:
Alec: "Yummy"
Bekah: 5/5
Asher: *signs for more*

Friday, October 25, 2013

White Bean and Ham Soup

    Ready for the third Mimi reference in a row? Here it is: Mimi makes the best soup in the world. It's been years since I've had her white bean and ham soup, but it sure made a long lasting impression.  So savory, warm and filling...just thinking about it makes me happy!

    Recently, we had leftover ham and Alec suggested we do something creative with it. When I decided on white bean and ham soup, I had no idea what I was getting into. Soaking beans? Making stock with ham hocks? 'Twas a great recipe to further this amateur cook's kitchen skills. I only strayed from this recipe in two respects; our soup had grated carrot instead of chopped, and included more ham than the scant amount on the ham hocks. 

     The process took about 24 hours, but the soup was well worth the wait!  After feasting on the delectable concoction, there were all of two servings left. It took all my willpower to leave some for Alec the next day! 

Sutton ratings:
Alec: 4/5
Bekah: 5/5
Asher: n/a (He was on a supper strike, his loss!)

   It seems appropriate to include a picture of my inspiration: 

Chicken and Dumplings & Cream of Chicken Substitute

    Have you seen the chicken and dumplings recipes making the rounds on Pinterest? I have quite the soft spot for chicken and dumplings, it's one of my favorite Mimi dishes. It seems as though many of these popular recipes use refrigerated biscuit dough in place of homemade dough. Weird, right?

    This week, I took a plunge and tried out one of the recipes. The end result can't exactly be labeled as a success or a failure. Cream of chicken soup is supposed to be used, so I made a substitute.  The substitute turned out well. What didn't turn out well were the 'dumplings'.  They added a sweetness to the dish that I didn't care for, and Alec couldn't get past the texture. In a nutshell, they tasted like boiled biscuit dough. Gross, right? 

At least the cream of chicken substitute was a success! Here's the recipe: http://www.mamasemptynest.com/?p=2229

Sutton ratings:
Alec: 2/5
Bekah: 2/5
Asher: 3/5

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Banana Bread

    One of the biggest blessings we received around the time of Jackson's birth was a six week hiatus from cooking. Planning and creating meals is typically a joyful task. At 41 weeks pregnant, cooking becomes a troublesome chore; with a newborn and a toddler, it's nearly impossible. I am so very thankful to our family and church family for giving us that much needed break!

    Since I've returned to being the family chef, Pinterest has been utilized quite a bit. There are so many delicious looking recipes to try! My absolute favorite find so far is this banana bread recipe from cleverhousewife.com : http://cleverhousewife.com/2012/12/gourmet-banana-bread/

    This recipe is the closest I've found to my Mimi's banana bread. It is absolutely delicious! One recipe 
made two nice sized loafs, which we've been enjoying for three days now. Follow the recipe to a tittle, and you'll have banana bread fit for a king!

Sutton ratings: 
Alec: 3/5
Bekah: 5/5
Asher: 5/5


Asher approves :)