Hot Dog Buns

June 15, 2008 at 7:56 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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It’s Father’s Day, so what are you doing special for your dad? Or grandfather? Or ladies, someone who you’d like to make into a daddy? Kidding. My dad requested hot dogs for his Father’s Day dinner. You say, “tell me something special I can make for you!” and he says, “hot dogs.” What’s not to love about that?

So I thought I’d try my hand at making hot dog buns, and they turned out okay. Minus the one that fell in the bottom of the oven. The best part was that my entire house smelled like a delicious Fuddrucker’s. For a little while. Until one of the buns fell off the pan and ignited.

I’m still pretty partial to the store-bought buns. But, if you’re feeling adventurous, here’s how you too can make your very own hot dog buns.  I think it is important to shape the buns well, and you can learn from my mistake – don’t be afraid to place the dough pieces very close to each other!  Or you could always invest in one of these fancy schmancy “hot dog pans” but if you’ve got that much money to burn, please send me some while you’re at it.

  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 (.25 oz) packages dry yeast
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Stir together 2 cups flour and yeast. In a separate bowl, heat milk, water, oil, sugar and salt to lukewarm in microwave. Add all at once to the flour mixture, and beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.
  2. Mix in enough flour to make a soft dough, about 2.5 cups. Mix well. Dust a flat surface with flour, turn dough out onto floured surface, and let rest under bowl for about 10 minutes.
  3. Shape dough into approximately 15 balls, then roll into a worm shape.  Put them MUCH closer together than you see in this picture:
  4. Place on baking sheet to rise until doubled in size.  Don’t grease the baking sheet or you will end up with buns on the bottom of the oven once you touch the baking sheet!
    Case in point:
  5. Bake in a preheated 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) oven for 12 to 15 minutes.

P.S. If you want these to look more beautiful, brush an egg wash (one egg white with a little water) over the buns about 2 minutes before they come out of the oven!

The BEST brownies

June 13, 2008 at 3:33 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Show me a person who doesn’t love brownies and I’ll call that person a liar. Because brownies are awesome. Here is the recipe for my absolute favorite brownies.

  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (USE A GOOD BRAND. IT MATTERS.)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (again, USE A GOOD BRAND. IT MATTERS.)
  1. Preheat oven to 350, and spray a 9×13 pan, lined with foil if you want (see my note below).
  2. Combine the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each, until thoroughly blended.
  3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture until blended. Stir in the chocolate. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared baking dish.
  4. Bake in preheated oven until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. (I just watch the edges – I think that’s the trick.)

I made a half-batch of these to take to our Top Chef party (half-batch goes in an 8×8 pan). Okay, are you asking, why in the world would you make just a HALF BATCH of brownies? Because if I make a whole batch of brownies for a party with 5 girls, there is a half pan of brownies left, which I will take home and eat all by myself. Dang it, you’re right. Why did I just make a half batch?! Never again!

For these brownies, I added a cup of chopped up Andes mints. I love those, and these brownies were extra fantastic. I also substitute the vanilla for mint extract. You don’t have to do that, but it adds a nice touch.


  1. Line your pan with foil. This makes it so easy to lift out of the pan! You will never have to ruin an edge brownie trying to get them out of the pan. Perfect.
  2. Mix it up! If you like nuts or butterscotch, add a cup of those instead of mint chips. Add two cups for a full batch of brownies.
  3. Like I noted, there are some things where the BRAND MATTERS. Extracts and chocolate chips are two of those things. I like Tollhouse chocolate chips the best, even over Ghirardelli (they have a chalky taste to me). Hershey’s are also okay, but NEVER use the store brand! I’m super cheap, so you can trust me on this one – I wouldn’t go for the more expensive choice if it weren’t really necessary. For the vanilla, I like the Madagascar Bourbon type, but as long as it’s real vanilla, you should be okay. Honestly, if you use imitation vanilla, you are a bad person.
  4. Always always always cut brownies with a plastic knife. There is no other way to do it!

Now eat em!

(see, I ate one before I remembered to take a picture. I rule.)

Fruit Bouquets

June 13, 2008 at 3:09 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Have you seen heard of fruit bouquets?

They are the new, hip version of the “cookie bouquet,” and you can purchase them all over the place. I think they are super cute, but they are off-the-charts expensive! I’m talking $100 for $15 or $20 of materials. All you need to make your own is listed right here:

  • one pineapple
  • one honeydew (not too ripe)
  • one cantaloupe (again, not too ripe)
  • a quart of strawberries
  • a bunch of grapes, any kind
  • one flower shaped cookie cutter (I used two)
  • skewers and toothpicks
  • a sturdy pot/basket/bowl to hold your bouquet, fitted with a piece of styrofoam on the interior

Now have at it!

This isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s messy and tedious and requires patience. I will give you a couple of notes:

  1. Don’t dip your fruit in chocolate! A lot of the fruit bouquets that you can buy at a florist or online will include chocolate dipped fruit. The reason why I don’t suggest doing this is that fruit is wet, and if your chocolate dipped fruit gets wet, it will ruin the look of the chocolate, plus the chocolate can run onto other fruit.
  2. Many people use kale/parsley/lettuce to fill in the sparse looking areas of their baskets. I didn’t here because I think it looks a little tacky, but if you feel like your skewers are too visible, use some filler!
  3. Experiment with other shapes – pineapple also looks cute in heart shapes, for a bouquet like this.
  4. Bigger really is better – fill in as much as you can! Grapes are easy to skewer and take up space so go overboard!

Spicy Shrimp

June 13, 2008 at 2:41 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I have to thank my dad for this recipe. I don’t know where he got it, but we have been making it for years to rave reviews all around. Everyone loves these shrimp. Even I love this recipe, even though it makes my forehead sweat for hours. I took it to our Top Chef season finale party last night, and now to appease those of you who have asked for it… here it is!

A few notes: it’s really good served with french bread rounds, as an appetizer, or on top of some linguine as a main course. Whatever you do, make a lot (in fact, I usually double the amount of shrimp and triple the marinade) and be ready to give out the recipe because you won’t be able to keep this a secret. Another tip: bake it wherever you intend to serve it – the sauce will splash out of any dish, no matter how tight the lid, and you will have an oily, shrimpy mess on your hands!

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning (I use Tony Chachere’s Original Cajun)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (regular parsley, not flat!)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (you can leave this out if you’re not a fan of spicy – the Cajun seasoning will make it plenty spicy!)
  • 1 pound peeled and deveined raw shrimp

Whisk all these ingredients together and add the shrimp. Allow the shrimp to marinade for several hours, keeping in mind that the longer they marinade, the hotter they will be!

Preheat your oven to 450 and bake the shrimp/sauce for about 10 minutes, until they are done and pink. (I usually use large or extra large shrimp, so it has to bake for around 15 minutes.)

Serve and enjoy!

Caramel Pie

June 12, 2008 at 11:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

In 2006, I heard about a recipe for making caramel pie (similar to the one at O’Charley’s) where you boil cans of sweetened condensed milk for several hours and – voila – you have caramel pie filling! I remember it was 2006 because my parents were on a post-Katrina road trip to New Orleans, and when I mentioned this new recipe to my dad on the phone he said that it didn’t really sound safe to boil metal cans of anything – they might explode. So, I searched for an alternative method, which led me to microwaving the sweetened condensed milk until it caramelized. This seemed like a pretty good method, so I poured the caramel filling into the pie crust and waited for it to “set up.” When I went to slice the pie, I realized it had turned into a hard brick of caramel, which was completely inedible. I tossed the pie and abandoned my hopes of ever making caramel pie.

…until recently. I again mentioned the idea to my dad, and he said, “Yeah, that would probably work.” Oh parents. After I got over the shock of his tremendous change of heart, I set to work on making this caramel pie.  So this is pretty basic.  You put 2 or 3 (I did 4, to be the safe side) cans of unopened, label-removed, sweetened condensed milk (Eagle Brand milk) in a pot and cover them with water.  Bring to a soft boil and boil for three hours.  Do NOT let the water get down below the cans because then they will explode!  If you use a large stock pot, this shouldn’t be a problem.  It will look like this:

Now let the cans cool, open them, and pour it into the pie crust.  I ended up using three whole cans:

Now decorate it however you see fit!  I whipped some heavy cream and piped it on, then topped it with walnuts and mini chocolate chips:

Make sure you refrigerate at least a few hours before serving so the caramel can really firm up.  This was really delicious and definitely worth the safety risk!  Enjoy.

Hashbrown Casserole

June 8, 2008 at 3:06 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Hashbrown Casserole is delicious. And it is absolutely not just for breakfast. I regularly take a pan of this delicacy to potlucks, and while it is not particularly complicated or original, it is always a hit. My version does taste similar to the Cracker Barrel dish, if that’s what you’re hoping to recreate.

There are a number of different variations on this dish, and I have come up with one that I really enjoy with a special addition – barbecue potato chips. Most of the recipes you will see call for either plain potato chips, cornflakes, or ritz crackers to be crushed and used as the topping. The barbecue potato chips on top are way better. Another tip – use sharp cheddar cheese. It gives the dish a zing that matches the topping.

  • 1 bag frozen hash browns, thawed (30 oz)
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (10 oz)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 small bag of barbecue potato chips, crushed (5 oz)
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and coat a casserole dish (at least 9 X 13 size) with cooking spray.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients, except potato chips, together in a LARGE bowl. I often use my hands to mix because it’s faster.
  3. Spread mix into the pan and bake for 30 minutes.
  4. Cover the casserole with the potato chips and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Once it’s all mixed together, it should look like this:

hashbrown casserole mix

And then once it’s baked (and half eaten), it should look something like this:


Down the rabbit hole…

June 8, 2008 at 1:05 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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alice at the table

Welcome to my Kitchen! I absolutely love to cook (and eat) new things. I will try just about any recipe I’m given, but I have a hard time remembering which ones are the best. So, I am going to use this blog to record my adventures in the kitchen.

About my cooking:

I definitely have no formal training. That will probably be obvious as this blog develops. There is very little precision in any of my cooking, whatsoever. I think that is a good thing, honestly. I’d like to improve my knife skills, but I’m fairly set on learning all I can about cooking on my own. That is part of the reason why I love new recipes because they provide the opportunity to try working with different ingredients and techniques.

What I love:

  1. Southern cooking! I love to make lots of traditional southern dishes, but I shy away from anything that requires lots of frying or grease. Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat those kinds of foods, but I don’t love to make them. Anything that requires an entire bottle of 409 for cleanup is too much for me. Now, if you’re thinking, that eliminates most great southern food, then you are dead wrong. There is plenty of down home cookin’ that doesn’t require deep frying.
  2. Garlic. I actually might have a problem. I love garlic, and I think it makes almost everything better, except for desserts. I love it roasted, I love it plain, I love garlic powder even. Watch out for lots of garlic in my recipes. If you don’t love it, decrease the amount or just take it out. I feel sorry for you, though. You are missing out.
  3. Rosemary and basil. I feel the same way about rosemary and basil that I do about garlic, but they are both much less subtle, and therefore, can’t be added to recipes with nearly the same frequency. I love them both, though and look for opportunities to cook with them any time.
  4. Sausage and bacon. Mmmm. I just love them. I recently bought a chocolate bar that had bacon in it. I know what you’re thinking, and, yes, it was delicious. If a recipe calls for sausage or bacon, it is invariably going to be awesome, right? I say right.

What I do not love:

  1. Black pepper. I will use black pepper in a recipe where it is mentioned, but I never add pepper to anything of my own volition. It’s just not my thing. And not to be a spice racist, but I do love white pepper. White pepper is fantastic in alfredos and in mashed potatoes; I think white pepper is severely under used in most cooking!
  2. Spicy food. Let me explain. I actually love the taste of spicy food (exception – curry) and cook it fairly often, but I’m just not equipped to handle the effects like most people. If I eat a batch of my spicy shrimp, I’m sweating for the rest of the night. But, it’s worth it.
  3. Sushi. Not going to discuss it.
  4. Smoked flavor. There are some exceptions, like my ribs, which demand smoked flavor, and some chilies, but I don’t really go for a smoky taste in general.

There may be more to come, but keep those in mind for now as you read my recipes. Also, one more confession I want to make should you choose to use one of my recipes. I often make a dish and then give someone the recipe, only to have them report back to me that their version wasn’t as good. This is absolutely my fault. While I certainly can see the beauty in closely following a recipe, I usually end up changing one or two things to suit my taste. Hopefully, that will not be the case here. I am going to attempt to note all of my deviations from any original recipes. Plus you know some of my likes and dislikes, so you can and should change to suit your taste.

So, now that that’s all on the tea party table, I hope you enjoy and perhaps find a little kitchen inspiration of your own!

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