So I meant to post this morning, as I normally do, but I have to be honest with you all. I overslept and today was struggle bus Friday around the office. I think it’s being back from vacation and summer days are longer, and also because I stayed up later after getting home from an event to finish a book that I have been engrossed in all week. I’ll totally post about that Outlander obsession later…
This past Sunday we were on day number four of rain and dreariness here in Nashville, and I was in a mood to cook/bake. Normally I do a full Sunday afternoon cooking spree during the school year because of work and events so that I have food ready to grab or heat up quickly. I reserve baking for when I need to destress or move my mind to something else. Sunday was a much needed day of just that-moving my mind into something else.
If you follow me on Instagram or we are friends on Facebook you saw me post a couple of things…in fact I think I even posted on my new Tumblr page a couple of photos this week. As you can see I got full on baker mode with the first thing I made, a Key Lime Pie from scratch. It is a summer favorite of mine, because I am a summer baby. This was done with a simple graham cracker crust and left to chill overnight in the freezer (mainly because I forgot to take it out before I went to bed). My coworkers raved about it this week, so I am exploring another icebox pie excursion this weekend.
Next up I set to making a cobbler. I had discovered in this month’s Rachael Ray Everyday (because obvs…) she had easy cobbler recipe variations that I wanted to test out. I picked up some peaches, because it’s summer and I wanted peach cobbler and warm breading and a dollop of salted caramel ice cream (who doesn’t, right?!). Well when it came time to make this I actually took a variation of her recipe for strawberries instead and used that one, since I had frozen strawberries on hand. I’ll share the full recipe (my way) below with you. This is what I have now call amazing deliciousness in warmth. It’s official name is a chocolate dipped strawberry caramel cobbler. I substituted the chocolate chips called for in the biscuit topping with caramels that I had on hand instead. Best. Decision. Ever. After dinner that evening I scooped out a little bit in a ramekin to try and this is the divine goodness that I was met with.
I also had a hankering for banana bread something fierce. So I got almost too ripe bananas on my Kroger jaunt Saturday (I do love the Kroge) and found a perfect meld of cinnamon and banana in this loaf. I ended up sharing it with my coworkers as well because of fear of eating the entire thing in one sitting. It went perfect with a cup of coffee in the morning, or tea in the afternoon. My house smelled like an unbelievable bakery when this was in the oven. I wish I could have bottled that as it was heavenly. The top crisped up well and still held a softness in the middle.
While my oven was still warm I was debating on a dinner recipe that could go far and still be relatively healthy…meaning I was looking at some wheat pasta and a yearning for Italian sausage thrown in. I have been very anti-chicken as of late but I compromised when I found some chicken sausage on sale at Trader Joe’s earlier Sunday. I threw it into cook with some garlic and basil, just enough to brown the sausage and soften the garlic. I put on a stock pot full of Farfalle pasta (quite possibly my favorite type) and started pulling stuff together. I threw in fresh mushrooms-I will put mushrooms in almost everything if I can. I added about a third of a bag of fresh spinach, lightly shredded by hand and cooked it all down. I threw in a bit of oregano and some salt and pepper to taste. Thankfully I had some jarred pasta sauce on hand (I’m a Prego girl) and put that in with the sausage/veggie mixture to simmer while the pasta cooked. When all was said and done I combined them all in 3 qt baking dish, topped with two cups fresh mozzarella shredded and baked until bubbling. Served it up with fresh ciabatta rolls split, brushed with EVOO and sprinkled with Italian herbs then toasted in the oven.
So that’s how I spent five hours on Sunday afternoon, in kitchen heaven…seriously I know so many who hate to cook or are afraid to try things, but here’s the bit. I have been cooking for years, and I screw up alot. But I get back in there and find something else to make or figure out what I did wrong. Cooking and baking are about exploring and learning. I love that, because it allows your creativity to flow in the process and you never fully arrive. You just get better! So grab a spoon, and get to stirring!
Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Caramel Cobbler (as adapted from June issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine)
Ingredients for cobbler
1 lb frozen strawberries (I used Trader Joe’s, it was what I had on hand)
1/4 c. sugar
1.5 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp vanilla
Mix all these together until the fruit is evenly coated. I did not thaw the strawberries as the original recipe called for fresh ones. I also halved this recipe based upon the fruit I had on hand. You can certainly double the quantities. However I did not halve the biscuit topping portion as I do love the topping. Place in a 2 qt baking dish. I used a 2 1/2 qt round Corningware one that was perfect.
Easy Biscuit Topping
1 c flour
1/4 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c cream1/2 c chopped baking caramels
Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add 3/4 c cream and mix just until the dough comes together. Mix in the chopped up caramels. Flour your area and pat into 1/2 inch thick round. You can either cut out the topping using a glass or cookie cutter. I chose to crumble them as I found the biscuit topping to be sticky and hard to manage.
Arrange on top of the strawberry mixture. Brush with cream, then sprinkle on a tablespoon of sugar. Bake at 400 until the filling bubbles up AND the topping comes out clean on a toothpick test. You may need to cover the topping with aluminum foil tented to prevent too much browning too quickly. I baked mine around 45 minutes but it can range from 35-45 minutes.