Lemon Coconut Cookies

23 02 2012

Light, delicate, and beautifully-flavored, these cookies are perfect for a party, bridal shower, baby shower, garden party… You get the idea.  They are simple, yet elegant.

* 2/3 cup shortening

* 1  1/2 cups sugar

* Grated zest of 1 lemon

* 1 egg, beaten

* 1/4 cup milk

* 2 Tbsp lemon extract

* 2 cups all-purpose flour

* 2 tsp baking powder

* 1/4 tsp salt

* 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

* Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cream the shortening, sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl.  Mix in the egg.  Add the milk and lemon extract.  Stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, stir together the dry ingredients.  Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the sugar mixture.  Mix in the coconut.  Drop the batter, by the tablespoonful, onto a baking mat or greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes; edges should just be beginning to golden.  Allow cookies to completely cool on a wire rack.

Once cool, dust with sugar (I use a mini sifter to evenly sprinkle the powdered sugar onto the cookies).

Recipe from Peace Meals, by the Junior League of Houston.  You can buy their cookbooks here.

Did this recipe make you Smile?  I would be honored if you’d become a Facebook fan of mine!  Click here (or copy and paste this link into your browser:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Smiles-in-the-Kitchen/143789102327574).

The Best Southern Fried Chicken

23 02 2012

I think fried chicken is one of the food centerpieces, if you will, of the South.

There’s just something about it that seems to bring people together.

Just like our “Southern Fried Dinner” last night — all great Southern recipes in one gigantic dinner.  It was awesome.

And, this fried chicken… Well, let’s just say, it’s pretty darn amazing (if I do say so myself).  Enjoy!

You can choose to cut up a whole chicken (three- to four-pounder), or (you can do like me) and buy a bunch of drumsticks and bone-in, skin-on breasts (those are my fave parts of the chicken, anyway)… Your choice.

* Large package of drumsticks (about 5 to 10)

* Large package of bone-in, skin-on breasts (about 4)

* 1 quart buttermilk

* 2 lbs lard (perhaps more, if needed; I need a bit more, but I was cooking a BIG batch) – you want the lard, when heated, to completely cover the chicken pieces

* 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter

* 2 large country ham steaks, cut into 1/2-inch strips

* 2 cups all-purpose flour

* 1/2 cup cornstarch

* 2 tsp salt

* 1  1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Place the chicken in a very large resealable plastic bag.  Add the buttermilk.  Refrigerate overnight or up to 48 hours.

Place the chicken on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet, allowing excess buttermilk to drain.  Discard buttermilk.

Prep the fat for frying by adding the lard, butter and ham strips into a large Dutch oven.  Cover over medium-low heat for about 40 minutes, skimming as needed, until the butter stops foaming and the ham is browned.  Remove the ham strips with a slotted spoon.

Increase the heat to medium-high and heat the fat to 325 – 340 degrees F (check the temp with a candy thermometer).

Meanwhile, combine the flour, cornstarch, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Mix well.  Dredge the drained chicken through the mixture, pressing to adhere.  Tap off excess flour mixture, but ensure that the chicken is thoroughly coated.

Using tongs, carefully slip the chicken pieces into the hot lard.  Be careful not to overcrowd the pot, as that will reduce the lard temperature (so, fry in batches), and ensure that the oil level covers the chicken pieces completely.  Each side will need to be cooked anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes.  Try to resist the urge to turn the chicken often, as you can lose flavor and crust by doing so.  The chicken will be golden and the internal temp at the thickest part of the chicken must register 160 degrees F.  (But be careful not to overcook.)

Drain the cooked chicken on a paper towel lined plate.  Serve with plenty of hot sauce.

Did this recipe make you Smile?  I would be honored if you’d become a Facebook fan of mine!  Click here (or copy and paste this link into your browser:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Smiles-in-the-Kitchen/143789102327574).

Easy & Delicious Slow-Roasted Prime Rib with Creamy Mustard Sauce

1 12 2011

I don’t know why prime rib has always intimidated me…


I think because it’s such a “big deal” dish at restaurants (not to mention, expensive), I just figured it wasn’t something I’d want to do on my own.

Well, think again.  You’re gonna wanna try this recipe, and trust me, it’s amazing (and soooo easy)!  Enjoy!

* 1 (6 to 8 lb) standing rib roast (with 2 to 3 rib bones)

* 2 Tbsp veggie oil

* Coarse kosher salt and ground black pepper

* Instant-read digital meat thermometer

When shopping – look for a roast that has a fat cap about 1/2-inch thick (that’s the fat on top of the roast).

First, remove the bones from the roast.  Here’s how: using a sharp knife, run the blade along the length of each bone, following the contour of the bone as closely as possible until the meat is separate.  Take your time during this part.  Set the bones aside (you will need them later).

Cut crosshatch slits in the fat cap, spaced about 1 inch apart, being careful to cut down to the bottom of the fat, but not into the meat.  Rub 2 Tbsp salt all over the roast and into the slits.  Place the roast back on the bones (matching up where they were cut from), and refrigerate uncovered for at least 24 hours, up to 96 hours.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high until just smoking.  Set aside bones.  Sear roast on the top (fat side) and sides until brown (do not brown on the side that the bones came from) – about 5 minutes or so, total.  Place rib roast back on bones, securing bones and roast with 2 pieces of kitchen twine.

Place the roast, fat side-up, on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet and season roast generously with pepper.  Place roast in oven and slow-cook until thickest part of meat registers 110 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 3 to 4 hours.

Turn oven off.  Leave roast in the oven (being careful not to open the oven door too much) until the meat registers 125 degrees F (for rare), about 30 minutes.

Remove roast from oven, leaving it on the baking sheet, and tent loosely with foil.  Allow meat to rest for 30 minutes longer.

Using a broiler or the broiler function on your oven, adjust a rack about 8 inches from the top broiler element.  Preheat broiler.  Place roast under broil and cook until the fat becomes brown and crisp, about 4 to 8 minutes.  Transfer roast to a carving board.  Remove twine and rib bones; discard.  Slice lengthwise into 3/4-inch slices.  Serve with easy homemade creamy mustard sauce.

Now, that’s a dinner fit for royalty!!


Did this recipe make you Smile?  I would be honored if you’d become a Facebook fan of mine!  Click here (or copy and paste this link into your browser:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Smiles-in-the-Kitchen/143789102327574).

Mixed Greens with Herbed Baked Goat Cheese and Easy Homemade Vinaigrette

25 09 2011

Many of you already know…

I LOVE Cheese!

Cheese this, cheese that, melted cheese on top of this, extra cheese pizza, cheese ravioli…


Healthy salad + Cheese = Hello, WINNER!

(Oh, and don’t forget the easy homemade vinaigrette dressing!)

For the goat cheese:

* 3 oz white Melba toast (trust me – use this, not breadcrumbs)

* 1 tsp black pepper

* 3 eggs

* 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard (I love Jack Daniels’ Honey Dijon)

* 1 Tbsp fresh chopped chives

* 12 oz goat cheese (I used 3  4 oz logs)

* Extra virgin olive oil

For the salad:

* 6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

* 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

* 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

* 1 tsp minced shallot (minced onion works, too, in a pinch)

* 1/4 tsp salt

* Black pepper

* 14 cups mixed delicate and spicy salad greens (think arugula, baby spinach, and frisee), washed and dried

For the cheese:

In a food processor, process the Melba toasts into fine, even crumbs, about 1 minute.  Transfer the crumbs to a medium bowl, and stir in the pepper; set aside.  In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and the mustard.  In another small bowl, combine the thyme and chives.

Using dental floss (trust me, it works), divide the cheese into 12 equal pieces.  Roll each piece of cheese into a ball.  Roll each ball gently through the fresh herbs to coat lightly.  Transfer a few cheese balls at a time to the egg mixture and turn each piece to coat.  Allow excess to drip off.  Gently place the pieces into the Melba crumbs.  Turn each piece to coat, gently pressing to adhere the crumbs.  Repeat with remaining cheese balls.  Using your fingertips, carefully flatten each piece  into a disk about 1  1/2 inches wide and 1 inch thick.  Set on a foil-covered baking sheet.  Transfer the baking sheet to the freezer and freeze until firm, about 30 minutes (do not skip this step).

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

For the salad:

Whisk the oil, vinegar, mustard, shallot and salt in a small bowl until well-combined.  Season with pepper to taste.  Set aside.

Remove the cheese from the freezer.  Brush the tops and sides evenly with a bit of oil.  Bake until the crumbs are golden brown and the cheese is slightly soft, about 12 to 15 minutes.  Transfer the cheese to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

Place the greens in a large bowl, drizzle the vinaigrette over the top and toss to coat.  Divide the greens between individual salad plates; place 2 rounds of goat cheese on each salad and serve.

Did this recipe make you Smile?  I would be honored if you’d become a Facebook fan of mine!  Click here (or copy and paste this link into your browser:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Smiles-in-the-Kitchen/143789102327574).

Herb-Crusted Beef Tenderloin Medallions in a Red Wine Reduction

25 09 2011

I adore sales…

Mark down the pricetag, and I [POOF!] have a sudden, intense need for it.

Can’t live without [whatever it is]…

Well, you guessed it.  I found food on sale.

A whole beef tenderloin, to be exact.

It was exactly half price!

[There I go… Saving money again!]

[Ha, ha!  I know my Dad is laughing right now…  He’s thinking, “Yeah, right.“]

Hi, Dad!  Still saving you money!!!  :D

In all seriousness, though, I can’t seem to justify buying tenderloin at regular price…

But, you put it on sale – 50% off, no less – and you’d better watch out!  I’ll tackle anyone between me and the meat counter!!

[Not even kidding.]

And, when I began to lick the pages of my Williams Sonoma Cooking at Home cookbook (pg 267), I knew this was the right recipe for that perfect cut of meat…  (psssst! And it’s an easy recipe!)

* 2 large shallots, chopped

* 1 cup Zinfandel wine (cheapy wine is just fine)

* 2 cups beef broth

* 2 Tbsp, plus 1/2 cup, panko bread crumbs, divided

* 1 tsp unsalted butter

* 3 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

* 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves

* 1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves

* 1 egg white

* 1 egg, beaten (optional/if needed)

* Canola oil (for frying)

* 4 filet mignons, trimmed – each about 5 oz each and 1  1/4-inches thick

* Salt and black pepper

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the shallots and wine.  Bring to a boil and boil until the liquid has almost evaporated, about 20 minutes.  Add the broth and boil until reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 20 minutes more.  Remove from heat and pour into a blender.  Add the 2 Tbsp bread crumbs and the butter.  Puree to form a smooth sauce.

About 10 minutes before the sauce is ready, stir together in a small bowl: 1/2 cup bread crumbs, parsley, thyme, sage and egg white.

Coat a large frying pan with a thin layer of oil.  Heat over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Season the filets with salt and pepper, and add them to the pan.  Sear the meat, turning once, about 2 minutes on each side.  Remove from the pan and turn off the heat. Press the herb mixture onto one side of each medallion.  Quickly transfer each filet back to the skillet, crumb-side down.  Heat the pan over medium-high heat again.

**If you have trouble getting the mixture to “stick” to the filets (like I did), dip one side of each filet in the beaten egg, then press the crumb mixture firmly onto the filet.  Quickly transfer each filet back to the skillet, crumb-side down.**

Cook until the crumbs are golden and the meat registers 120 degrees F on a thermometer (stick into the thickest part of the meat), about 2 minutes.

Remove from heat.  Ladle the pureed sauce onto warmed individual plates, dividing it evenly.  Place the beef medallions, crumb sides-up, on the sauce.  Serve right away.

I plated these delicious steaks with homemade scalloped potatoes and greens tossed in vinaigrette with herbed baked goat cheese rounds.

Smile, Friends, that’s some ON SALE, restaurant-style beef tenderloin medallions in a red wine reduction!

Did this recipe make you Smile?  I would be honored if you’d become a Facebook fan of mine!  Click here (or copy and paste this link into your browser: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Smiles-in-the-Kitchen/143789102327574).

Marshmallow Creme-Hot Fudge Sundaes

21 07 2011

Marshmallow creme.

It entered my sphere of consciousness when I was a teenager.

And, if I remember right, I sabotaged my Mom’s dessert by eating the whole gosh-darn container.

[Mouth full of marshmallow creme.]

“Oh, sowwwwweeee, Mom.  I didnnn know you neededdd thifff for your refffffipeeee.”

Mom eyeballing me…

[What?  That stuff is good!]

I became infatuated with marshmallow creme then…  Straight out of the jar, on graham crackers, smeared on chocolate, topping on ice cream, mixed with peanuts [I never claimed to be normal!]… You name it, I ate it with marshmallow creme.

[Could explain my “freshman 15” when I went to college… Eeke!]

I’ve proclaimed that I’m not a dessert fan (which is now becoming quite dubious after the cake lolli/cake pop incident – those were pretty darn yummy), but you can always coax me with ice cream… Ice cream sundaes, in particular.

So, stumbling across something that could amp the texture and flavor of the ice cream sundae, like marshmallow creme?????  Take that typical hot fudge and give it a fluffy texture???  Ummmm…

Yeffffffff, peeeeezzzzzzzzzz!

Adopted (and amended ever-so-slightly) from Bon Appetit magazine, August, 2011, edition, pg 42.

* 12 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped

* 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

* 1/2 tsp instant coffee or espresso

* 1 cup, plus 2 Tbsp fat free half-and-half

* 6 Tbsp marshmallow creme

* Vanilla bean ice cream

In a large bowl, combine chocolate, cocoa powder, and espresso.  In a small saucepan, bring cream to a bare-simmer over medium heat.  Pour over chocolate mixture.  Let sit for 30 seconds, then whisk until smooth and glossy.  Fold marshmallow creme into chocolate.

Serve warm sauce over ice cream.

You can make ahead too!  Lasts for 3 days – simply let cool, cover and chill.  Re-warm when ready.

Smile, Friends!  Itffffff marffffffmallowww keeeeem!  :)

Cake Pops, Cake Lolli’s, Sprinkles, Sugar Rushes and Dancing in the Rain

16 07 2011

Ever had a party?

Ever had an outdoor party?

Ever had an outdoor party where clear skies boasted and bragged all day long…. Then, then… a single line of thunderstorm-downpour careened over the house where you are and unloaded God’s water-bottle??!!

[You look around and realize that no one else in the valley is getting rained on… But you.]

[I swear God has a goofy sense of humor sometimes…]

But, here’s where you run outside and dance in the rain.

Isn’t that what Life’s about?

I saw a quote once (I’m paraphrasing now), “Life’s not about waiting for clear skies.  Life’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

True, isn’t it?

So, that’s what we did.

[Not that it didn’t take some coaxing…]

As the downpour ensued, Chelsea, one of our hosts, grabbed her dining room chairs…

[My eyebrows were raised.  Hmmmmmm???]

Chelsea pulled each and every one of her nice dining room chairs (except the one I was plunked on, one eyebrow still raised) outside.  In the rain.

“It’s a little rain!!  Get over it, people!  And, sit!”

Profound words.  Profoundly true, especially in everyday Life.

“Hello??!!  Get moving!”

Chelsea… pointing at her beautiful chairs… set up in the rain… looking at each and every one of us.


And we all Smiled… Maybe because we weren’t quite sure if we wanted to get soaked, even if we knew the storm would last only a few minutes… Maybe because rain is something that just happens in Life.  Maybe it was because we were a teeny-tiny bit frightened that Chelsea just might kick our butts if we didn’t go out there and enjoy the rain.

There are some things in Life that take a Friend to point out.  Like not being afraid of, or huddling away from, the rain.  Rain… It renews, refreshes, rejuvenates, heals…  I had kinda forgotten that for a moment.  Until yesterday.  Pretty sweet lil’ pun on Life, too.

Life.  It comes with a little rain.  And Smiles.  And laughter, even when you’re getting wet amid a thunderstorm.

That storm?  It only lasts a minute.

The Smiles?  The laughter?  Those…  Those last a Lifetime.

And, from my experience, these cake lolli’s (or cake pops) bring Smiles all the way around.  You can buy some gorgeous ones in cake shoppes, but you can also pinch a penny or two, get your hands in the dough and have a great time in the kitchen… And, that, my friends (if you have the time) is priceless.

This recipe was my contribution to that wonderful BBQ with Friends…

Enjoy, Friends…

**Stay strong to the timelines in this recipe… The chilling of the dough is absolutely critical to the finished (and successful) dessert.  Do not, I repeat, do not, cut corners on the timeframes.

* 1 box white cake mix (store brands are just fine)

* 1 (16 oz) container prepared vanilla cake frosting

* 1 container snowflake sprinkles (larger sprinkles that aren’t so subject to their color running/bleeding)

* 6 oz of candy coating – Wilton’s is great, but hard to find in stores (you can order online at wilton.com)… No Wilton’s?  No problem!  Do this:  * for each 1 cup white chocolate chips – add 1 Tbsp shortening, microwave for 30 seconds, stir, microwave at 15-second intervals and repeat heat/stir until the chocolate is completely melted. * for each 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips – add 1 1/2 Tbsp shortening, microwave for 30 seconds, stir, microwave at 15-second intervals and repeat heat/stir until the chocolate is completely melted.

Prepare the cake mix according to the directions on the box. When cake is baked, allow to cool completely, about 30 minutes. Crumble the cake into the bowl of your stand mixer and add the frosting.  Mix with your dough hook for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until well-combined and very smooth.  Add the snowflake sprinkles and mix completely. Cover dough with plastic wrap, and place bowl in the fridge for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Line a baking tray with wax paper. Use a melon baller as a scooper to form balls with the cake mixture.  Balls should be larger than a big marble and smaller than a golf-ball (for best results).  Roll the balls tightly. Place on wax paper. Insert a strong toothpick in each ball.  Place the baking tray in the freezer for at least 1 hour, up to 3 hours.

Prepare the candy coating.  If using Wilton’s place in a microwave-safe bowl and nuke for 15 second intervals, stirring and repeating until the mixture is smooth and melted.  If using chocolate chips, mix/melt with shortening as directed above.

Remove the balls from the freezer. Using the toothpicks, dip each cake ball into melted candy coating. Swirl to evenly coat. Remove and gently roll or tap on their sides to remove excess coating. Blow on the candy coating to just-set before placing on anther wax paper-lined tray.

Once you have covered all the balls in candy coating (get creative here – you can sprinkle with chocolate drizzles, fun sprinkles, other candy decorations, etc.), place the tray in the refrigerator until the candy coating has set, about 1 to 2 hours.

You can leave the toothpicks in the cake balls (making them cake lolli’s or cake pops), or you can remove and set them in mini muffin wrappers for your guests.

Feel free to get creative with your cake mix and icing combos… Think of how the mix and icing will look when combined into the ball… Then think about your candy coating… You can really come up with some awesome combinations – the possibilities are endless.

Smiles, Friends… Life’s about dancing in the rain with sweet treats in hand.



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