Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Grandma Jean's Coffee Cake

You'll thank me for this.

My Grandma Jean is a pretty fabulous cook, and she makes a lot of things that are legendary in our family. When my mom and Mikey first started dating, she won me over with her strawberry jelly. Then, when she cooked sausage and sauerkraut for the rest of my family, she made me macaroni and cheese (because there are several forms of torture I'd rather endure than eat sauerkraut). I had an ear infection once and she rubbed my back until I fell asleep. Ok, that last one didn't have anything to do with cooking, but it's just another reason I love her.

But don't be fooled. A really big reason that I love my grandma is this coffee cake. Write this recipe down and make it all the time for everyone you know. Perhaps people might love you too.

I must let you know that I doubled this recipe. I was making three coffee cakes, two for my parents to take to Florida (without me, mind you), and one for Andy and I, who got left alone all week long. Unless you are making coffee cake for a small army, make half this amount.

Gather these ingredients:

Eggs, vegetable oil, flour, sugar, brown sugar, milk, salt, pecans, cinnamon, baking powder, and butter or margarine or whatever. We're keeping it simple today.

I started with four whole eggs. (sooooo the regular recipe calls for two eggs. Get it?)

Mix in 3 cups sugar (this coffee cake is not for the faint of heart, my friends).

And 1 cup vegetable oil. On Grandma Jean's recipe it says "salad oil." Love.

Cream together all the ingredients until combined.

My mother thinks she's funny:

PS: GO BUCKEYES!!!!!! I love football season.

If you're doubling the recipe, use a really big bowl. This is mine:

I think, in my mom's divorce from my dad, she got the house, the car, me, and this bowl. It's enormous, and I'll tell you one thing: never in my memory of my life have I ever eaten popcorn out of this bowl. But it makes a great tool if you are doubling an already large recipe!

Here's an important step. Sift together 6 cups flour, 6 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt and add that mixture alternately with two cups milk. Or, you could be like me and forget the baking power and the salt completely, and then throw away three ruined coffee cakes.

Don't be like me. Pioneer Woman says that all the time, and I think you should heed this advice. Remember to sift, please. For Grandma Jean's sake.

Isn't sifted flour pretty?

Add some of the flour mixture...

And some of the milk...

Mix for a little while, then add some more flour stuff...

And some more milk...

You get the idea.

Beat the mixture well until it's all nice and combined.

Now make the brown sugar topping, aka the best part, aka the reason why you will dream about this coffee cake.

Start off with 2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar.

That white stuff? It's excess flour because I used the same measuring cup without washing it. I confess. Don't judge me.

As it turns out, it wasn't that big of a flub, because you NEED flour in the topping. 8 tablespoons in fact. There's 8 teaspoons melted butter or margarine or whatever in there, too. And 2 cups pecans or walnuts or whatever nut you like. Just picture it in your mind.

I mixed a little bit before I realized I forgot my cinnamon! Don't you do it. Two teaspoons cinnamon.

Are you halving everything in this post? You should be! Unless you are feeding a church group or an enormous potluck or a small country. Then you can make double.

Annnnnywho. Here's some fun! In a 9 x 13 pan, or an 8 x 8 pan, or a disposable tin cake pan, or a combination of all three, add half the batter!

Gotcha, ma.

Add half the filling, and then marble the two together. There's not a picture because I didn't do that the first (or second) time around, and I deeply, deeply regret it.

Lies. But please, do marble.

Then, add the rest of the batter...

And the rest of the crumbly filling on top:

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cook just enough so that it doesn't scald you, and then eat. You'll love Grandma Jean too.

This coffee cake changes lives friends!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A few stitches!!

I allowed myself about two hours of free time this evening to a, play with our neighbors' ADORABLE 1-year-old daughter (who said "Mikey," my stepdad's name, for the first time today!), and b, do a little bit of work on Art's Christmas stocking!

And no, I have no plans to have this stocking done by Christmas. I started it in, oh, March perhaps? I first made myself one of a delightful little Santa, and then started working on Art's teddy bear stocking.

Yes, the man gets teddy bears. He has a soft side, you know. He loves a chihuahua named Peanut.

As you can see, this is not a design-from-scratch kind of needlepoint. I like to sew, but I'm not crazy. At least not when it comes to needlepointing.

Anyway, here's a close up of the work in progress. You can also see my wooden dowel rods that keep the mesh tight. I can't believe I've ever needlepointed without one of these things. The bottom bear is finished, the rest are not.

Aren't they adorable? And sort of masculine? Especially the one with the big red bow in her hair.

Here's a close up of what I'm actually doing. The difference between needlepoint and cross stitch is that needlepoint uses lots of strands of thread (usually 6) and goes from one corner to the next, whereas cross stitch uses usually only one or two strands and makes an "x."

I bet you've always wondered that. I'm happy I could be here to enrich your lives with sewing vocab.

Here's a closeup of the finished bear's face. You can really see just how many colors go into one project. I'm counting 11, anybody else? :)

Needlepoint is extremely tedious work, so if you aren't into that, you probably won't like it. But me, I enjoy tedious tasks. Always have. My closet is organized by color and my bookshelves are in order by height. That's just who I am.

Happy Tuesday everyone! :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Food tastes better when shared with friends

Art and I spent the weekend (plus a few days) in Salt Lake City visiting our best friends, Jen and Jason. We had so much fun just sightseeing and being together that I forgot to really capture all the great food we got to eat and the many (many, many) bottles of wine we drank.

First of all, awaiting our first night was this:

The best thing about Jen and Jason is that they know exactly how to get into my good graces. Hint: it's this meal. It was a delicious start to the weekend!

The next night we went out to a local restaurant called Gracie's in downtown Utah. Jen and Jason hailed them for their sandwiches, but when I saw mussels on the menu I couldn't resist. One of my main goals in life is to meet a meal of seafood that I don't love.


These mussels were steamed in a white wine and tomato sauce and served with pappardelle noodles, and I ate them all in about thirty seconds. Which was convenient, because Art ordered the trout:

I think he got to smell that mound of couscous there, but he didn't get to eat any. There is a soft spot in my heart for couscous. And apparently my stomach.

This is Jen's blackened salmon burger, served with Gracie's trademark sweet potato fries. I'm curious about these sweet potato fries. Curiosity will eventually turn into an experiment, I'm sure. Fried? Baked? Seasoned? We shall see.

I'm picturing a vat full of these on my Thanksgiving table this year. Just sayin'.

And this is Jason. Jason is pretty.

You know what else was pretty? His ox burger (yes, like Oregon Trail).

I rounded out the trip with fish and chips at the Wasatch Brew Pub in Park City (PS - please go to Park City once in your life. For me.), but I neglected to take a picture of it because, well, I was busy devouring it. I also ordered a pumpkin ale, and I didn't take a picture of that because I was busy asking God to bless the person that invented pumpkin ale. And all of his descendants.

Whether you're nibbling on mussels, sipping wine or destroying half a pound of oxen, this much is true: everything tastes better when shared with people you love!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Culinary Offerings of the South

I was in Nashville for Labor Day Weekend, doing a little visiting with friends and a lot of eating. And after said eating some subsequent falling over in a fit of passionate glory. I just love southern food.

First stop was the Neely's barbecue joint. I love me some ribs, and I love me more some Neely's ribs. Check them out here. I got the rib dinner with BBQ spaghetti (didn't pause long enough to worry about what that was... I just ate it) and cole slaw... yum.

What's up Pat and Gina... call me.

The next day for lunch we stopped at Calypso Cafe, which is a very hip little mediterranean/vegan/bean restaurant in Nashville's quirky East end. I got myself a veggie pita with chips and... what?

Yes. Mashed cinnamon nutmeg sweet potatoes topped with coconut. Whoa.

My last meal in Nashville was at a tiny Italian restaurant that specialized in antipasti. Well. You don't have to twist my arm. This was olive tapanade, goat cheese and peppers, and mascarpone artichoke dip served with these great crispy bread things that probably have a fancy Italian name. It was a light dinner (see enormous veggie pita and half pound of sweet potatoes above, which I ate for lunch), so it was plenty to fill me up. Next time I go back there I'm getting the full platter, and then I can die happy.

And then, on the way home, we stopped in Louisville. Louisville is not on the way home. We went for one reason: to eat this:

This, my dear, beloved readers, is a Kentucky Hot Brown from the Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville. According to my friend Cynthia, a Louisville native, it is the only place to eat one. It is $14 and at a restaurant in the middle of an extremely fancy hotel. We were in shorts and t-shirts, but no one stared at us because they were too busy devouring their own hot browns. It's egg bread, turkey breast, an extremely sinful white sauce, tons of Parmesan cheese, baked to golden brown and topped with bacon.

Lordy. If you want to read more about hot browns, go here. But be prepared to get up immediately and drive to Louisville to eat one. I might do that myself.

All in all, southern dining was everything I wanted it to be. Glory.