Monday, June 20, 2011


One of my very early memories is of drinking blackberry juice, purchased at Ukrops Supermarket in Richmond. It was absolutely delicious and one of the few healthy things I remember loving as a child, which is perhaps why my mom made sure we had it as often as we could. It disappeared from their shelves, but my taste for blackberries has remained, leading to such adventures as picking blackberries at summer camp-- to the dismay of the camp director, who worried that we would get bitten by snakes!

This week, I got some beautiful early blackberries from The Old Farm Truck Market and got to have some for dessert tonight. I had grand aspirations of cobbler but didn't have the patience to wait for them to bake. There would be those who would argue that the very fresh berries should be enjoyed in a purer state so that's what I did.

I washed the berries in a colander, placed them in a bowl, poured some heavy cream over them (not too much-- it should be a good marriage of cream and berries), and sprinkled a packet of turbinado sugar over them. Too good to be true! Get good berries and good cream (I used Organic Valley Heavy Whipping Cream), and you can't go wrong. Macerate the berries in a bit of dark rum if you're feeling adventurous, but they're great on their own. Yum!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Crispy Treats...with a Twist

(Confession time: this is not my photo, but it is a photo of the delectable treats as made by my friend and sorority sister Meg Hogan. Mine were all gone before I could get a picture!)

Since I was a child, I have had a deep and abiding love of marshmallow crispy treats. Do you remember the ad with the mom sitting in the kitchen, reading a romance novel as her family eagerly awaited their treats? She then provided them after sprinkling her face with flour and water to make it look as though she'd gone to gargantuan effort for this dessert. Needless to say, my school friends and I soon discovered that they were about the easiest thing to make and then made them all the time. It was then that I lost a desire to experiment with the recipe as I'd made them with too much marshmallow or too much butter or too much cereal, learning that there was a precious formula to be followed so that they would end up utterly perfect.

Fast forward to New Year's Eve of 2009. Thanks to one of my Facebook friends, I discovered the Smitten Kitchen blog and (most importantly) the recipe for browned butter crispy treats. After hearing that my friends mowed down on her stirring spoon like a bear gnawing on a leg, I knew I had to try them. They came with me to my New Year's party and went over amazingly well. I thought there should be no further tweaking of the crispy treat recipe after finding this delectable combination of salty and sweet, buttery and crispy.

Once again, fast forward, this time to this week in 2011. Meg posted the recipe for cake batter crispy treats from the How Sweet It Is blog, and once again, I was possessed to make them ASAP. Fortunately, Meg made them first and gave me her tips. I further tweaked it and now present you with the results. The ladies of my church raved, and I was thankful they ate most of them so I did not eat them until a) they were gone and b) I was sick to my stomach from all of the goodness.

Without further ado and with many thanks to Smitten Kitchen, How Sweet It Is, and Meg Hogan, I present to you salted brown butter-cake batter crispy treats. Make 'em for a gathering to share the love.

- 1 stick (6 tablespoons) butter (the SK recipe calls for unsalted, but I used to salted to add a bit more flavor, even though it really doesn't add that much)
- a pinch kosher salt
- 6 cups crisp rice cereal
- 1 10 ounce or 10.5 ounce bag mini-marshmallows (make sure they're fresh!)
- 1/3 cup cake mix (I went with Uncle Dunkie's yellow, largely because it was on sale)
- sprinkles

Begin by greasing a baking dish (I just use cooking spray). I use a rectangular Pyrex dish to get lots of thinner treats, but you can use a square one for thicker treats.

Place the butter and salt into a pot large enough to hold your marshmallow mixture and the 6 cups of cereal (probably at least 4 quarts to ensure stirring room). Let the butter melt on low. Keep stirring it as it browns, keeping an eye and a nose on it to tell when it's done. It will get brown and lovely and smell nutty. Yum.

SK tells you to turn your heat off at this point, but I like to keep my flame on low as I add the marshmallows since it helps them combine smoothly. Stir until it all looks smooth, then add the cake mix a little at a time, stirring to combine. Turn off the heat.

Add your cereal, making sure it all gets well-coated. Add half of your sprinkles, if you'd like sprinkles in your treats. If you add them while everything is too hot, they'll melt, but this can add fun color to the treats.

Spread the mixture into your greased dish, pressing down with either a greased spatula or greased hand to make sure they're even. Put sprinkles on top.

Mow down on what's left in the cooking pan as the ones in the dish cool. (Don't deny it!!) Share recipe as you wish.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Steamed veggies made even easier!

I was invited to a parish party tonight. Hating to show up empty-handed, I thought of what I had around the house so that I could contribute something yummy. I remembered the exquisite asparagus I had bought from The Old Farm Truck Market in Lively, VA and thought, aha! The rub in this plan was that I ran short on time between work and the party, plus I wanted to bring something cooling as it is, well, warmish (to put it mildly) here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Thanks be to Alton Brown, I have now learned how to steam asparagus and other veggies in the microwave! Genius, genius, genius. All the good of the veggies, plus the kitchen doesn't get overheated. It's a win, win.

As you can see from the picture, I chose to add something to my steamed asparagus, namely raspberry vinaigrette (while still warm) and crumbled goat cheese (after they had cooled a bit), which seems to figure into most everything for me right now. Needless to say, it was a huge hit, and I only got one piece of the dish. Oh well. I just need to get more and make it again!

Without further ado, here are your quick and easy instructions for steaming asparagus in the microwave. I've heard this works well for corn on the cob, too, and I can't wait to try that. I imagine it will take longer, but once I get the time, I will post it in the comments. Yum!!

Steamed Asparagus in the Microwave (per Alton Brown)
- 1 bunch asparagus, washed and trimmed
- 2 large paper towels, or 4 of the "select a size" ones, dampened with approximately a 1/4 cup of water or misted to be damp
- kosher salt

Spread the damp paper towels onto a flat surface. Lay your asparagus on top in a bunch and sprinkle with the kosher salt (not too much, but enough to mildly season it and bring out the green). Wrap the asparagus in the paper towels and place in your microwave, seam side down. Microwave on high for about two (2) minutes or until tender crisp. Season and serve as you will!

I can't wait to try this method with other veggies. Let me know which ones you do and which work best!