Category Archives: Recipes by The Dinner Belle

“Piece of Cake” Coffee Cake

Now that we’ve discovered Knox’s soy allergy, I’ve really had to change the way I’ve been cooking. I used to cook all the time. We’re talking full meals, Southern-style, with a meat, starch, vegetable and bread. Every. Single. Day. I also used to bake occasionally (from scratch), but after having a second child, my grand culinary aspirations flew out the window. Because I learned that taking a shower was more important to me than cooking a huge dinner or baking a pretty cake. I’m pretty sure no one wants to eat a cake made by a smelly person, anyway.

However. Now that I’ve had to start checking nutritional labels on everything that comes into our house to weed out the dreaded soy, I have to say that I am APPALLED at the crap that is in our food. I mean, it’s really bad.  If there are more than 10 ingredients that you can’t pronounce listed on the box, chances are, it’s probably not all that good for you to be ingesting. Most of the “convenience” items that Knox can eat are way more expensive than the regular brands, and while I don’t mind buying a few boxes of Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies for him to snack on, the real issue lies with breakfast foods. Knox really likes sweet food for breakfast. I used to whip up a boxed coffee cake mix or buy a grocery store bakery pound cake for him to eat most days, either that or he would eat an organic nutrigrain bar and yogurt. But now he can’t. Because all of that stuff is loaded with something that makes him incoherent and itchy… SOY. You’d be shocked at how many of our staple food items have soy in them- it’s not just for tofu anymore!

So, I decided that it was time to get back to my roots and start cooking from scratch once again, not only so that Knox can actually eat what we eat, but so that we get back to a more natural way of eating minus all of the preservatives and chemicals and what-have-you.  All that being said, I don’t have two hours to spare to make some meal you’d find in a high-end restaurant. This is real life. I work, I have two children, and I’d like to be able to sit down and relax with my husband for an hour in the evening instead of standing at my Kitchenaid mixer (even though it’s red and really pretty).

This delicious coffee cake recipe was one of the first things I ever learned to bake. I was probably 10 or so the first time I made it by myself, so yeah, I promise you can do it. It takes about ten minutes to prepare and 20ish to bake. Last time I checked, that is the same amount of time it took me to make a boxed coffee cake, too. And, oh by the way, this one tastes WAY better.

Here is how you make my “Piece of Cake Coffee Cake” (full recipe at the bottom):

Ingredients

For the Cake:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
3/4 c sugar
1/3 c melted butter (cooled)
1/2 c milk
1 tsp vanilla

For the streusel topping:
1/2 c packed brown sugar
2 tbl butter, softened
2 tbl flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c chopped nuts (optional)

Directions:

1)Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and grease an 8×8 (or 9×9) pan and set that aside.

2) Add all of the ingredients for your streusel topping in a small bowl (except the nuts). Mix together with a fork until the mixture resembles crumbs. You’ll need to smoosh (technical cooking term) your butter into your dry ingredients with the tines of your fork to break it up. Stop when it looks like this:

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Loosely mix in your nuts if you want that in your topping. I didn’t use any in mine. Set your topping aside.

3) Sift together your flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. By this time, your side is probably kind of cluttered, but that’s okay because we’re about to use everything.

4) In a large mixing bowl, beat your egg until frothy. Beat in your sugar, melted butter, then your milk and vanilla. Stir until everything is combined.

5) Stir your flour mixture into your wet ingredients. It will look kind of like this:

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6) Then, you’re going to pour half of your batter into your greased pan.

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7) Sprinkle half of your streusel mixture over the batter.

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8) Top that with your remaining batter. It doesn’t have to be perfect- it’s okay if you can’t totally cover your first layer of topping.

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9) Top the whole thing off with the rest of your streusel topping.

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10) Bake at 375 for between 20 and 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out cleanly. I know. It looks really good, right?

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That’s it! I like to make this on Sunday evenings and have it to eat on for a few days for breakfast. If you stick a piece in the microwave for ten seconds, it tastes just like it does straight out of the oven. Goes great with your morning coffee (or milk, in the case of my toddler).

Here’s the whole recipe written out, minus the pictures, so you can copy, paste and print it out for your recipe cards:

PIECE OF CAKE COFFEE CAKE

For the Cake:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
3/4 c sugar
1/3 c melted butter
1/2 c milk
1 tsp vanilla

For the streusel topping:
1/2 c packed brown sugar
2 tbl butter, softened
2 tbl flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c chopped nuts (optional)

Directions:
1)Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and grease an 8×8 (or 9×9) pan and set that aside.
2) Add all of the ingredients for your streusel topping in a small bowl (except the nuts). Mix together with a fork until the mixture resembles crumbs. Set aside.
3) Sift your flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.
4) In a large mixing bowl, whisk your egg until frothy. Stir in your sugar, melted butter, then milk & vanilla.
5) Stir your flour mixture into your wet mixture until everything is combined. There may be a few lumps.
6) Pour half of your batter into your greased pan. Top with half of your streusel topping. Pour remaining batter on top, then top with remaining streusel mix.
7) Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out cleanly.

Blackened salmon over cheddar cheese grits

I made a super awesome dinner on Friday. We’re talking, a tell-everyone-you-know-about-it awesome meal. A while back, I had dinner out with friends and ordered salmon. It was served with cheese grits and a fresh salsa, and oh, it was awesome. I am a big fan of shrimp and grits and/or anything with grits, so I wanted to recreate this dish myself. I didn’t use a recipe or copy it exactly, but I figured I’d try to quantify as much as I could so I could share with you guys! This is not an exact science, it’s more of a method!

salmon

Blackened Salmon & Cheddar Cheese Grits

For the fish:
4 Salmon Filets, skinned- approximately 5 oz. each
salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, cumin to taste
1 tbl. olive oil

For the salsa:
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
2 ears of cooked corn on the cob, corn removed
1 jalapeno, ribs & seeds removed, finely diced (you can use less if it’s a really hot one)
1/2 of a medium onion, finely diced
1/2 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
the juice of 1/2 lime
Pinch of salt, pinch of garlic powder
small handful of cilantro, roughly chopped (*optional, but highly recommended!*)

For the grits:
1 cup quick-cooking grits (NOT instant)
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
cheddar cheese, 4 oz grated
Pinch salt

1) Prep your salsa first. Add your tomato, onion, jalapeno, corn and black beans together, then stir. Squeeze the juice of half a lime over everything, add a pinch of salt and garlic powder. Add in some chopped cilantro, if you like cilantro like I do. Some people like lots and some people hate it, so add as much or as little as you care for. Stir everything and let it sit at room temp for at least 15 minutes so the flavors meld together.

2) While your salsa is percolating, add 1 tbl olive oil to a saute pan and preheat over medium heat for a few minutes. Season your fish with salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, paprika and a pinch of cumin. Do this to your taste, but thoroughly dust the fish with all spices.

3) Add seasoned fish to pan. Cook until dark golden on each side, about three to four minute a side. Remove fish from pan to rest.

4) Now, for the grits. Add 2 cups chicken broth and 1 cup water to a medium pot. Bring to a boil and add a pinch of salt. Add one cup of quick cooking grits. Bring back to boil, then cook over low heat for five minutes. Once your grits are cooked, add your cheddar cheese and stir everything until the cheese is melted.

5) To plate, add a healthy portion of grits to a plate, top with the cooked salmon then finish everything with a big spoonful of corn salsa.

6) Serve it immediately!

 

Fool-proof Country “Fried” Steak

Seriously, you cannot mess this recipe up. If you can’t cook to save your life, I promise you, you can still make this… and it will be good! We’ve been sharing quick and easy recipes in my women’s group, and this one I had to share with you guys. It’s from my group leader, and she promised us that it was both delicious and simple. I love to make traditional country fried steak, but it’s time-consuming and not very good for you… plus, who likes getting popped to death with that hot grease?! Not me! Get ready for the easiest recipe ever:

Ingredients:

Cubed Steak (generally four come to a pack)
1 packet Lipton Onion Soup Mix
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
1 can Beef Broth (you can use milk if you don’t have broth)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray an oven-safe casserole dish with Pam or non-stick cooking spray. Season your cubed steak with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Lay the steak in your pan (it’s okay if they overlap).

In a separate bowl, combine your onion soup mix, cream of mushroom soup, beef broth/milk (I used broth but added a splash of milk, too). Once combined, pour this mixture over your meat. Bake for about 1 hour.

That’s it!! This is delicious served with mashed potatoes and makes a great gravy that tastes like you were cooking for much longer than a few minutes!

The only difference I noted between this and “real” CFS was the texture- it’s a little thinner without the fried-on flour layer, but still just as tasty. Trevor couldn’t tell a difference at all, and I bet your husband won’t be able to, either! Enjoy!

A fall favorite: Chili

I went outside yesterday and it was actually COOL. You know, the kind of weather where your hair doesn’t frizz instantaneously and your clothes don’t stick to your sweaty skin? Our weather man said it has not been that “chilly” (the high was in the mid-70s) since MAY. People, that is insanity. So, with cooler weather on the horizon, I am starting to get really pumped for fall. Crisp air, changing leaves and college football. Not that I watch college football of my own free will, but football means fall, so I like it for that reason. All of this thinking about fall makes me start thinking about cold-weather food. Soups, stews and chili. So, in preparation, I thought I would share my chili recipe with you.

Jessica’s Awesome Chili

Ingredients:
1 lb ground chuck
14 oz can diced tomatoes
14 oz can tomato sauce
14 oz can dark red kidney beans
1/2 tsp sugar
3/4 tablespoon chili powder
pinch of cumin
Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
*optional* red pepper flakes

Directions:

1) Brown your hamburger meat and drain grease. If you like your chili HOT, add a shake of red pepper flakes here.

2) Stir in your kidney beans. Cover and cook over medium heat for about five minutes.

3) Add your diced tomatoes, stir, cover and cook for five minutes.

4) Add your tomato sauce, sugar, chili powder, cumin, SALT, pepper and garlic powder. Bring up to a simmer, cover and reduce heat to medium low, stirring occasionally. Let this chili simmer for about 20 minutes, though it’s up to you depending on how chunky you like your tomatoes- the longer you cook it the more they will break down. I? Love chunks!

5) Give it a final taste and adjust your seasonings.

6) Eat as-is or top with grated cheddar cheese (Trevor’s favorite). Serve with saltine crackers or corn chips (<– Trevor turned me onto this, and it’s darn good!)

This is a soupier chili- I know everyone has a preference, but this is my particular favorite style of chili. This is a great, inexpensive meal that is super easy to double and freeze leftovers for a day where you don’t have time to cook. Enjoy!

Real Southern Chicken & Dumplings

Okay, y’all, I’m about to share one of my signature dishes with you guys, which is pretty good news because it is delicious!! This is a take on my Aunt Frances’s dumpling recipe, it’s her basic one, but I do it just a little differently. I have been making these things for YEARS (like since I was a teenager), and they are one of my little family’s favorites. I also tend to make these for friends when they have babies or need a special meal.

Because wouldn’t this make you happy?? It makes me happy every time!

dumplings

This is not a 30-minute meal, let’s just make that clear from the get-go. This is a hardcore, made-from-scratch Southern woman recipe! And it is worth every flipping second you spend on it! Trust me. Here we go:

Ingredient Line-up
-1 medium-sized whole chicken (3-4 pounds)
-1 onion, quartered
-4 carrots, peeled and chopped in large pieces
-3 stalks of celery, chopped in large pieces
-3 cups of all-purpose flour
-2 eggs
-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
-cold water
– 1 or 2 whole bay leaves (I use dried)
-salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika

1) Start off by putting your raw, whole chicken in a large pot. A Dutch oven works great (I use my favorite Le Creuset for dumplings!), or whatever you would use to make soup or spaghetti sauce in. Make sure you remove the giblets, if there are any. Toss the giblets, except for the neck, which you can put in for more flavor, if you aren’t grossed out by a neck floating in your pot, which I am not.

2) Add all of your onion, carrot and celery, then fill your pot until your chicken is just covered with water. Drop in your bay leaf (I only use one, but some people like two) and season, season, season! You’re going to need a few teaspoons of salt for this much water, and make sure you do 10 grinds or so of pepper and a hefty shake of garlic powder. I just do a couple shakes of paprika over the top.

3) Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to medium low for about 30 to 40 minutes or until chicken is done. You can tell if the chicken is done if you lift out the chicken a bit and slice the skin between the leg and thigh- if the juices are clear, it’s done, if they’re bloody, give it another few minutes. If it’s a little underdone, that’s okay because it’s going to go back into the pot to simmer again. Remove chicken from pot. Let cool.

4) You can keep your stock simmering on the stove until you’re ready for it.

5) For the dumplings, you will take your flour, eggs, oil and water and mix them together. Also season with salt and pepper. You will notice I did not give an amount for the water. That’s because it varies. Start by adding about a half a cup of water. Mix it all together, and if your batter is still crumbly, add more. You want everything to come together but look like a ball of dough. You are going to be rolling this out with a rolling pin, so you don’t want it runny. If you add too much water, add a little flour. It won’t hurt it.

6) Once you feel your dough is “right,” sprinkle a large clean surface with a TON of flour. I like to line my island with parchment paper, then flour it so I don’t have to scrape dough off my countertops, afterwards. It’s a smart plan. Lay down your dough, dust it heavily with flour and pat it down into a rough circle. You may want to check the bottom to make sure it’s not sticking and add more flour if it is.

7) Roll out your dough to about 1/8″ thickness with a rolling pin, continually dusting sticky spots with flour. Once it’s rolled out (probably about 2′ x 2′) let it SIT THERE for about 15 minutes. If you don’t, your dough will shrink up and really make you mad.

8) While your dough sits, remove the celery, onion and carrot from your stock with a strainer or slotted spoon. Save the carrots, but toss the rest.

9) Go ahead and take the skin off your cooled chicken and peel the meat off the bone. You’ll want bite-size pieces of chicken. Once you do that, chop your carrots into small pieces, as well. Set aside.

10) Cut your dumplings. Take my advice and use a pizza cutter for this, as it saves about an eternity of time. Cut your dumplings into about 1 1/2″ squares (you can go bigger or smaller as you prefer- it’s not science).

11) Turn up the heat on your stock to high until it boils, then turn it down to medium high. You’re ready to drop your dumplings!

12) Pick up your dumplings a handful at a time (you can stack them atop one another) and drop them one-at-a-time into the stock so they don’t stick to each other. After each handful, give them a loose stir. Keep going until all of your dumplings are in.

** If some of your dumpling stick, that’s okay. You don’t have to get each one into the pot at the risk of losing your mind. I generally lose 5 or 6 to stickage.**

13) Once all of your dumplings are in the pot, stir then every few minutes so they don’t stick, but let them simmer for a good 15 minutes. Then, drop in your chicken and carrots and stir it all together.

14) Taste your broth. Re-season. If it’s too thick, add a bit of water or canned broth. If it’s too thin, don’t worry, it will thicken up in a few minutes. If it doesn’t, just mix together a few spoonfulls of flour with some water in a cup to make a runny paste, then whisk it into your sauce- it will thicken right up. You want some juice, though, because you can soak it up with crusty bread!

15) Let all of your ingredients simmer together for five minutes or so over medium heat. Keep stirring so they don’t stick, but don’t chop at them.

16) Eat them. They’re good.

Let me know if you attempt this dish (I promise it’s not as complicated as I made it sound!)- I hope you enjoy it!!

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