Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Grandma Keeton's Cinnamon Bars

Who doesn't love a moist and delicious bar! Well this recipe screams Christmas because every year my parents and I would drive up to spend the night at my grandmas house and she always had these bars fresh out of the oven when we got there. I think it was because it was my dads favorite.

Even though my grandmas house had five bedrooms, I always slept downstairs in the living room on the floor next to this old vintage faux electric fire place. The kind with the scooped neck, and wire curtains that closed to keep what would have been sparks if the fire place had been real. I used to always use the little wooden handles to close the curtain so I wouldn't get soot on my hands. Oye the things I believed in when I was little HEE HEE. When I was searching for a picture of her fire place I realized I had forgotten all about the fact that they had this pot bellied fire attachment set sitting next to the fire place. I don't think I ever remember them using it. I had forgotten all about that until I ran across a picture. There was no reason to stoke the fire as the logs were plastic and the only heat came from an electric vent at the bottom. I used to curl up on my layers of blankets and pillows and watch that metal drum behind the logs turn and turn until I would fall asleep, my belly full from her home cooked meal and frosting still on my face from her cinnamon bars. Those were some magical days......

~ Cinnamon Bars ~ 

1/2 cup softened butter
2 cups flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup crushed almonds 
(I finely chop with a knife or you can use a hand chopper)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon 
Dash of nutmeg
1 egg
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk 
1 scrapped vanilla bean (ME)
1 tsp vanilla extract (Grandma)

Mix the first four ingredients until crumbly
 (I use a food processor but a mixer will work just fine)
Press 2 cups of the crumble mixture into a lightly Pam sprayed 9x13.
To the remaining mixture, add remainder of ingredients and pour over the crust.
Bake at 350* for 20 minutes or until toothpick in the center comes out with tiny bits of cake stuck to it :) and cake is just lightly browned.
Cool and frost with cream cheese frosting.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Perfect Creamy Mashed Potatoes

It is early morning, and still dark out. It is my favorite time of the day. The fireplace is going and the room is toasty. I sit here curled up on the couch covered in a warm fluffy blanket and my two sweet baby pups are next to me snoring away. Everyone in the house is sleeping. And I have a front row seat to our Christmas tree which is decorated in holiday reds and greens.
 My heart is happy. 
Today is the day before thanksgiving. A day where families and friends gather to share a wonderful meal and each others company. Stories of years past will be shared, laughter will fill every nook and cranny and quite possibly even a little family drama. 
The last couple days I've spent the majority of my time in the kitchen, prepping everything for the big thanksgiving dinner. I am in heaven. I love the sounds of water boiling, my knife chopping vegetables, the timers going off and the smell of thanksgiving that fills the air. Toasted nuts for pies, fresh vanilla bean that goes into my roasted pumpkin pies, and the sweet samples of chocolate french silk pie and homemade whipped cream. All of it brings back memories of my mom and grandma prepping for the same meal. I used to sit at the kitchen table working on small tasks that they would give me and watch them work for hours. It was if they were dancing. Their movements were slow and graceful yet efficient. They were never in a rush. They relished their time together, making everything come together to make a delicious meal for the ones they loved. 
So today, I am going to share with you one of my favorite recipes that they made and now I make for my family. 

Perfect Creamy Mashed Potatoes

3 pounds Russet Potatoes Peeled, cubed, boiled till fork tender
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup real butter cubed
1/3 cup heavy cream
4 ounces cream cheese, softened and cubed
3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper 

I boil my peeled and cubed into bite sized potatoes until they are fork tender. Any resistance when pushing a fork into a chunk means they need longer. The fork should go in easy and the bite sized potato should split in half with ease.
Drain well. Turn off heat.
To the same pan, I add the remaining ingredients. Leave the heat off for now.  I don't mix these up. I just plop them in. Before adding potatoes I use a potato ricer. You can find them in most any store. This is by far one of the best kitchen gadgets ever. And guarantees a soft silky and creamy mashed potato. Using a measuring cup or large spoon, I put the cubed and drained potatoes into the ricer and press the potatoes out into the pan with the ingredients. Keep doing this until all of the potatoes are riced. Using a spoon or spatula, slowly stir all of it together. The hot potatoes will melt the cream cheese and butter throughout. If needed you can return the heat to low and keep mixing until everything is incorporated. Season more to taste with salt and pepper. 

Then spoon all of the creamy mashed potatoes into a crock pot and set to warm. You can do this early in the morning long before guests arrive. This will allow you more time to visit and less time over the stove as your guests arrive. Once your potatoes are in the crock pot, I lay a stick of butter down on the top and just put the lid on. the butter will melt and pool around the potatoes. Stop cringing and calorie counting. Its thanksgiving! Be happy and thankful we have butter! :)