Sunday, November 29, 2015

C'est si bon!


Thanks so much for all your messages and comments about the Pumpkin Crunch! It was fun to hear your stories of making and sharing that simple but delicious dessert. Whether you made one or seven (what?) I hope you savored it and plan to keep it along with other favorites in your very own repertoire.

It's natural, no matter if you're a seasoned cook or beginner, to stash away a few special recipes in your own personal arsenal. Those become the favorites that you rely on over the years whether for their ease of preparation, wonderful flavor, or simply for their familiarity.
The Pumpkin Crunch is certainly in my own favorites stash.

Let me tell you about another.

I first had these delicate and scrumptious muffins at the home of my dear friend, Ann. Her Mom made them for breakfast one morning when I visited there on a weekend break from college. Just the name, French Breakfast Puffs, sounded pretty fancy to me. I had certainly never been to France and was pretty sure I'd never eaten anything that could be classified as French. Unless you counted fries.

As it turns out, they're not even particularly French. But in this case, as with many old, popular recipes, no one really cares. As a matter of fact, I made these so many times when my boys were at home that the name simply evolved into their favorite "Brown Sugar Muffins." (even though there's no brown sugar involved) It seems we were not particularly fancy (or French) at all.

Since my very first taste of these all those many years ago, I have in fact enjoyed visiting France and have therefore decided that they likely got the french part of their name purely from the fact that the French, without doubt, are the undisputed experts in all things pastry. The delicacy, the texture, the taste? Incredible. It was a chore to tear myself away from all the pastry shoppes just to be able to say I saw the Eiffel Tower.

I recently served these in mini size at a Brunch Buffet and was surprised at how many people had never had them before. I think it's only fair that I get the word out.

So whether you make these for your family for breakfast, or make them mini-sized to serve alongside a fruit salad and some Brown Sugar Bacon on a Holiday Buffet, consider this an early Christmas present from me!

And not that I would know, but they also go especially well with Mimosas!

French Breakfast Puffs

1/3 c. shortening
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 c. milk

extra sugar and cinnamon

1. Mix shortening, sugar and egg in electric mixer.
2. Sift together the flour, Baking powder, salt and nutmeg
3. Stir the dry ingredients into the shortening mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
4. Fill a 12- cup muffin pan. (or use a mini-muffin pan to make about 24)
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. (slightly less if using the mini pan)
5. While still hot remove from muffin pan and roll each muffin in first melted butter, then in a mixture of about 1 cup sugar and 1-2 T. cinnamon (depending upon your taste)

Friday, November 27, 2015


Just a quick unplanned bonus recipe.

I thought you (like me) might have a little leftover pumpkin puree that needs to get used up. If that's the case, then this is the perfect thing. Hot from the oven, these little jewels are the perfect morning treat.
Or for those of you who do the Black Friday thing, just an after-shopping pick me up.

Hope you're having a wonderful holiday weekend.

Pumpkin-Chocolate Swirl Buns

1/3 cup warm milk
1/3 cup plain pumpkin puree
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 Tablespoons unsalted, softened butter

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
8 ounces (1 cup) chocolate chips, or chopped bar
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Egg Wash:
1 egg
1 Tablespoon cream

sugar for sprinkling (I used Turbinado sugar)

In measuring cup, combine milk with yeast and a pinch of sugar. Allow to proof 5 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin and the egg. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour, remaining sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Add the yeast-pumpkin mixture and mix on low to combine. Add the butter 2 Tablespoons at a time, mixing until the butter is incorporated before adding the rest. Scrape dough from the paddle, add the dough hook attachment  and knead on medium speed for 10 minutes. The dough will be quite sticky and stringy. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

(I let mine rise closer to two hours...)

While the dough rises, make the filling. In the bowl of a food processor, process all ingredients until all of the butter is distributed and you have an uneven, gravely mixture. Set aside.
Liberally butter a 12-cup muffin tin. Set aside.

Once dough has risen, turn the dough out onto a well floured surface. Allow to rest 5 more minutes, before rolling the dough out into a large rectangle, the short end measuring about 12 inches–the long edge can be about 18-22 inches. Sprinkle the chocolate filling evenly over the rectangle, it will be bumpy, and begin rolling from the short end all the way up into a 12-13 inch log and pinch to seal. Gently saw off about 1-inch spirals, placing each into a prepared tin. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise another hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350*F.
Whisk together the egg and cream, brush gently over the tops of the proofed buns and sprinkle liberally with sugar. Bake in the center of the oven for 15-25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Oh! I added a glaze made of orange juice, lemon juice, and powdered sugar.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Back By Popular Demand!

That is, of course, if you consider requests from two whole people "popular demand".

I first posted this way back in 2012, and it has deliciously stood the test of time.

I'm not sure if this will catch most of you in time (especially those of you who are the list-makers, planners, and the not-put-every-thing-off-to-the-last-minute-ers...)
Seriously, you guys are on your own. You've already bought all your groceries, made all your plans, and nothing I do can help you.

But! For my people! Those who will still make at least two trips to the grocery store before Thursday! The ones who will cuss and complain "why are all these people still at the store! why aren't they home cooking and being with their family!" as you wedge yourself into the last parking space within 2 miles of  The HEB.

This is for you.

My all-time favorite Thanksgiving dessert.

And also, conveniently, something that could successfully be made by a trained monkey.
With his hands tied behind his back.

You see a lot of recipes for something similar to this, but I guarantee that this is the best.

Make it! Take it!

And for all that is good and perfect in this world, Please Don't Forget The Blue Bell.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Crunch

I  (15 oz.) can pumpkin*
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
3 eggs
1 yellow cake mix
1 ½ c. chopped pecans
2 sticks butter (melted)

1.       In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar, cinnamon, and eggs. Beat about one minute on med. high speed. Pour mixture into a buttered  9x13 in. baking dish.
2.       Sprinkle the dry cake mix evenly over the top of the pumpkin mixture. Do not stir!! Sprinkle the nuts over the dry cake mix, and then pour the melted butter evenly over the top.
3.       Bake at 350 degrees for about 45-50 minutes. Until golden brown on top.
4.       Serve warm with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla.

*Make sure that you are using canned pumpkin puree and not canned pumpkin pie filling (yuck)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Dear Students

Well Hello!

We had a fabulous weekend, and hope you did too!

The weather is picture perfect here in Aggieland with the clearest blue skies and temperatures that are seasonably crisp and cool. I'm currently fighting an overwhelming urge to go to every restaurant in town that dares to have an outdoor patio and eat something outside in this awesomeness.

Because if not now, then WHEN?
You know I'm right.

It's so hard to believe it's just a few days until Thanksgiving, and many of you fortunate ones have probably already started your vacation or at least the preparations for it. You may know (or could guess) that some of my favorite TV watching comes courtesy of the Food Network, and I've already seen a couple of Thanksgiving Specials geared to helping us prepare the perfect feast for family and friends. I even heard one of the TV Chefs refer to Thanksgiving as the "Food Holiday".

And while I would enthusiastically agree that the food is an always much anticipated part of the celebration, I hope we don't forget the Thanks Giving part too.

It's easy to get wrapped up in the traveling and cooking and forget to let those you care about know how thankful you are for them. Like me, you may be missing someone this holiday, or find yourself wishing that the circumstances of your life were just plain different. Although it's rare that anyone would rate every season of their life perfect, I do believe that whatever our circumstances we should make every effort to look beyond what's not perfect and concentrate on each and every blessing.

Big or small.

I'm sharing a letter with you today that I sent to all my Aggie students. They've been a huge and wonderful part of my life for the last few months.

By reading this I hope you will be encouraged to take the time to consider some of the unexpected blessings of people in your own lives.
And remember, it only takes a minute to tell someone how grateful you are.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dear Students:

It’s almost Thanksgiving, an especially appropriate time to show our gratitude for special people who impact our lives. I’d like to do that today, because for me, you are some of those  special people.

Just think.
Many of you were convinced you’d never make it this far. That seemingly far-fetched dream of going home, seeing your families, and eating your Mom’s cooking has sustained most of you through the last few challenging weeks.

Oh, and the chance to sleep. You all really, really want to sleep.

Dragging yourself out of bed each morning for formation and PT has become an autopilot thing. On certain days making it to class is a triumph!
Sometimes I see you and think: “Look at them! They’re walking! Their clothes are all on straight! Their eyes are open! It’s a great day!”
You are truly a wonder.

Most of you know by now that I’m an ISFP- one of the “PEOPLE WITH ALL the FEELINGS”. So please, all of you “thinkers” just bear with me on the next part.

There have been days when I want to put my hands on your collective faces and say:
(Please pardon the following sentimental movie reference…)

You is kind
You is smart
You is important
(And yes, sometimes You is late with your assignments…)  J

Here’s the thing: I am so thankful for you. For the opportunity to share this little chunk of life with you. To be a part of one of the scariest, most challenging and exciting times of many of your lives. To be able to look back at your official “freshman photograph” taken what seems like eons ago at your New Student Conference, and see how much you’ve changed.

First, your hair. It’s gone. Bless it. May it Rest in Peace.

Your faces are slimmer, more chiseled. Sometimes I do a double-take when I pull up your pre-Corps photo online. Is that really you? I can’t imagine how many miles you’ve run, push-ups you’ve done, sandbags you’ve carried, and obstacle courses you’ve conquered.

You continue to have your uniforms altered to fit your taller, thinner selves. Oh, as a middle-aged woman to have that very problem for myself…
(Clearly, if I was more of a “thinker” I would be out on those runs with you.)

Most of those old pictures show excitement (and maybe a little apprehension) but now I see more of what appears to reflect determination and drive in your eyes. And pride. You’ve endured and accomplished things you never thought possible. You’ve proven that you are capable. You are able to think beyond your circumstances.
Well done. Very well done.

I have delighted in being called Ma’am so many times that I occasionally have to remind myself that’s not actually my given name. Many times I get a “Ma’am Sandwich”, starting and ending your sentence with that word of respect.
Thank you, by the way, I can’t tell you how honored I feel.

We’ve laughed together and cried (OK, fine. Maybe it was just me who cried).  We’ve commiserated over un-shined shoes and brass, a pesky lack of time management skills (or should I just say lack of time…), sophomore woes, and the nasty “fish” trap of procrastination.

We’ve read a novel, written goals (I promise you that Great and Glorious day will come when you all have time to meet girls!) We’ve discussed leadership and values and what it looks like to own the decisions that you make in college.

More than anything I think we’ve all learned a lot about each other and ourselves, and for that I hope you feel the class was worth the effort.
What I know with all certainty is that regardless of your age and life experience, you are some of the brightest, most talented, and exceptional people I’ve ever known. You make coming to my office and classroom each day a joy.

I am forever grateful for my time with you, and am a better teacher/person as a result.

Happy, Happy Thanksgiving to you all- enjoy each and every minute.

My Best!

Mrs. D-T

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Heed the Call

There's just something about cooler weather that screams MUFFINS! Well maybe not that loud, but it at least says muffins!!!!

We had quite a storm around here yesterday morning, and with it came some much anticipated lower temperatures. In my mind cool weekend mornings just beg for slow beginnings, a quiet breakfast on the back porch, and hot muffins. And nothing says fall like tart cranberries with some bright orange citrus flavor thrown in for good measure.

These muffins are perfect for weekends, holidays, or any time you want something comforting and homemade. Share them with your family, or with next week's Thanksgiving guests. Make an extra batch, let them cool completely, then freeze for up to two weeks. Pull them out and reheat for a breakfast on the run or an afternoon snack.

See you all sooner than later.

   Cranberry Orange Muffins

8 T. (I stick) butter
1 cup sugar  
½ tsp. salt
2 large eggs
2 tsp. baking powder      
2 cups flour
½ c. (4 oz.) milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ½ c. fresh cranberries
Coarse sugar for sprinkling
2-3 T. finely grated orange peel

Preheat oven to 375.  Lightly spray 12 cup muffin pan with cooking spray.
In the bowl of an electric mixer cream together the butter, sugar, and salt until light in color. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Add the baking powder, then add the flour alternately with the milk, beating well after each addition.   With a wooden spoon stir in the vanilla, the cranberries and the orange peel.
Fill 12 muffin cups evenly with the batter and sprinkle coarse sugar over the top of each.
Bake for 25-29 minutes.
Let cool just a few minutes and then carefully run a knife around the sides of each muffin and turn the muffin sideways in the muffin pan.  This keeps steam from forming a tough crust and it keeps the muffins from sticking to the pan.

Monday, November 9, 2015

It's About Time

In the last few days I've had a few people (OK, three. Just three measly people) ask me for a soup recipe. I suppose it's the onset of a bit of cool weather. Finally.

"What's your favorite soup?" they inquire.

Well, it's this. Spinach Lemon Orzo Soup

There's just something about the tart citrus-y lemon mixed with the goodness of spinach and the comfort of pasta and chicken that makes this my absolute, hands down first choice.

Another plus? You can have this ready in about 20 minutes. 


So if you're in need of some comfort for your stomach or your heart, try this.

I promise you'll love it.

Spinach Lemon Orzo Soup
(By Lu at Mudpuddle)

2 T olive oil
1 whole large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 whole lemon, zested and juiced (I used a HUGE Meyer Lemon)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, packed
1-½ cup uncooked orzo pasta
8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 T water
1 T cornstarch
About 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (I use a deli chicken!)
¼ cups freshly grated Parmesan Cheese (or how much you like!)

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot or stock pot. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes until fragrant. Add the lemon zest, red pepper flakes and thyme and cook another 3 minutes until the onions are tender and translucent. Turn the heat to medium and add the spinach and orzo. Cook for 1 minute and then add the broth and lemon juice.
Bring to a light simmer and cook for 12-15 minutes until the orzo is barely tender. Whisk the water and cornstarch in a small bowl. With the soup at a light boil, whisk in the cornstarch mixture and stir rapidly. Allow the soup to thicken, about 3 minutes. Adjust the thickness with additional broth or water.
Stir in the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes more.
Serve immediately garnished with freshly grated Parmesan.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Bacon Bacon

Certain things bear repeating.

And this Brown Sugar Bacon is one of them.

A few weeks ago at our Tailgating Brunch one of the most popular dishes was the Brown Sugar Bacon. Everyone gobbled it up. I've made it before many times- even for a event with 100 people in attendance (don't let anyone tell you that Church Ladies can't eat some cured and sweetened pork products!) and every single time it's been a rousing success.

This takes the goodness of bacon to an entirely elevated level.

I know many of you are preparing to cook for family and friends as Thanksgiving approaches, and thought you might enjoy making this super simple and tasty dish to serve. You'll be the object of many people's thanks!

1) Prepare the pan: I use a cookie sheet that has been carefully lined with foil. On top of the foil I place a cookie/cake cooling rack.

2) Place as many strips of thick sliced bacon as you can on the rack. Try to make sure the strips are not touching. 

(Also, please try to take a better photo.)

3) Sprinkle the strips with coarsely ground black pepper.

4) Then generously sprinkle with brown sugar!

That's it! Three ingredients!

5) Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

6) Let cool, and then break each strip in half. (At least do this to the ones you don't immediately eat.)

You'll love it- guaranteed!