Ever Evolving Food Blog

Hello Everyone! I have had this blog for years now, and as my personal life has changed, so have my tastes and eating habits...for the better!! I am now a fully plant-based eater, so my newer recipes will reflect this lifestyle and way of eating.

All of my old recipes will remain on my food blog, of course, so there will be a mixture of the old and the new for everyone to look through and choose. You can always play around with any recipe out there and make it your own, whether it's plant-based or not. There are always other options!
Thanks SO much for following! Happy Eating!

What's Cooking With Melissa

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Chocolate Chip, M&M Cookies

I like to make chocolate chip, M&M cookies for my students and family. They are colorful and yummy and fairly easy to make.  A little trick I've learned over the years is to take them out of the oven when they are still plump and soft.  They finish baking when you pull them out, so that way they aren't too hard from being in the oven too long.  Perfect!

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup mini M&Ms

Mix flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.  In a large bowl, mix the butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla until creamy.  Add the eggs one at a time until well mixed.  Slowly mix in the flour mixture.  Mix until well blended.  Stir in the chocolate chips and M&Ms.  Roll into balls and place on a greased baking sheet.  Bake at 375 for 10-11 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool and serve.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lemon Bars

Lemon bars are so light and fresh!  You don't get them often, but they are so good.  With that little bit of powdered sugar on top, it just makes it all the better.  The best thing about lemon bars is that you can cut them to any size you want.... big, small, or somewhere in between!

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
Grated peel of 1 lemon
Powdered sugar

Combine all crust ingredients in a small bowl.  Beat 2-3 minutes until mixture is crumbly.  Press onto the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan.  Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

Combine all filling ingredients except powdered sugar in a small bowl. Beat until well mixed.
Pour filling over hot crust. Continue baking 15-18 minutes or until filling is set. 
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and cool completely. Cut into bars. Sprinkle with powdered sugar again.  
Makes about 16 bars.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Mint Chocolate Chip Brownies

A lot of people love brownies.  With the holidays right around the corner, why not give your brownies a special kick with mint?  I know that my dad and my son really love mint chocolate chip ice cream, so a mint chocolate chip brownie sounds like heaven, and I know they'll love it!  

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 Tbsp water
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup mint chocolate chips
Powdered sugar for garnish

Grease 9 inch square baking pan.
Combine sugar, butter, and water in a medium microwavable bowl.  Microwave for 2 1/2 - 3 minutes or until butter is melted.  Stir in semisweet chips.  Stir gently until chips are melted and mixture is well blended. Stir in vanilla.  Let stand 5 minutes to cool.
Beat eggs into chocolate mixture, one at a time.  Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.  Add to chocolate mixture.  Stir in mint chocolate chips.  Spread in prepared pan.

Bake at 25 minutes at 350 for fudgy brownies or 30 minutes for cakelike brownies.  Cool completely, then cut into squares. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Taco Soup for the Crock-Pot

It's that time of year when the weather is getting colder and a nice bowl of soup or chili is perfect for warming you up.  Well how about a nice bowl of savory taco soup?  After cooking all day in the crock-pot and spreading wonderful smells all through your house, how could you resist?  This is a perfect fall or winter treat.  It would also be good in the spring for Cinco de Mayo celebrations!

2 lbs ground beef
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 (15 1/2 oz) cans seasoned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 1/4 oz) whole kernel corn, drained
1 (14 1/2 oz) can diced, zesty tomatoes
1 (14 1/2 oz) can diced tomatoes with chilies
1 (1 1/4 oz) package taco seasoning mix
1 (1 oz) package ranch salad dressing mix
3 cups tomato soup
3 cups water
corn chips, for serving
sour cream, for garnish
grated cheese, for garnish
chopped green onions, for garnish

Brown ground beef and onions in a large saucepan and then drain excess fat.  Transfer the browned
ground beef and onion into a crock-pot.  Add beans, corn, tomatoes, taco mix, ranch mix, water, and soup and cook for 6-8 hours.  Serve in a bowl over a handful of corn chips with sour cream, shredded cheese, and green onion on top.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

This carrot cake is not too sweet, so the cream cheese icing is just the right topping to make this dessert perfect.  It only takes about 25 minutes of prep time, and it isn't difficult at all.  If desired, the icing can be omitted.  Instead, dust the top of the cake with confectioners' sugar.  Either way, this cake is a beauty!

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2/3 cup milk
3 medium carrots, grated

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9-inch round cake pan.
Mix together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.
Beat together butter and sugar  until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  At low speed, alternately beat in flour mixture and milk into butter mixture.  Stir in carrots.  Pour batter into pan.
Bake cake for 40 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out.  Let cool completely before applying icing.

To prepare icing, beat together butter and cream cheese until completely smooth.  Beat in vanilla.  Beat in confectioners' sugar until well blended.  To prepare topping, mix together brown sugar and graham cracker crumbs in a small bowl.

Place cake on a serving plate. Spread icing over to the top and sides.  Sprinkle the top with graham cracker crust mixture.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake

So, this cake is good anytime of year.  It's good in the summer because of the fresh raspberries.  It's also good for the winter holidays because it's got a splash of red, which is adds a festive touch.  It's really yummy because of the buttermilk, which gives it a creaminess.  It's topped with a nice, sugary crunch.  The great thing about this cake is that you don't HAVE to use raspberries.  You can substitute any berry you want!

1 cup + 1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp + 1/4 salt
1/2 stick + 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup + 2/3 cup + 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar, divided
1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 + 1 large egg
1/2 cup + 1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
2 cup fresh raspberries (about 10 oz)

You're going to make this cake in two parts, but it really doesn't take long at all.
Butter and flour a 9 inch round cake pan.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar on medium until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla.  Add egg and beat well.  At low speed, mix in flour in three batches, alternating with buttermilk.  Mix until just combined.
Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing the top. Place raspberries evenly over the top, pushing them about halfway down into the batter.
Make the second half of the cake, gently folding the batter over the first part, then placing raspberries on top.  Sprinkle the 1 1/2 Tbps of sugar evenly over the top of the raspberries and batter.

Bake at 400 for 40-45 minutes until golden and wooden toothpick comes out clean.
Cool in pan for 10 minutes before you turn it out, then let it cool another 10-15 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gingerbread Men

The Christmas holidays wouldn't be complete without homemade gingerbread men!  Kids love to decorate them, and everyone loves to eat them.  The touch of spice is just right with a warm cup of coffee or tea or even with your hot chocolate.  Try different decorations to make them your own!  Have fun!

5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
5 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup molasses
2 eggs
white cake icing 

Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside. 
Beat butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add brown sugar and molasses and eggs.  Beat well. 
Gradually beat in dry mixture on low speed. Dough will be super thick.
Divide dough into three parts and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm; about 1 1/2 hours.

Roll dough on lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness.  Using a cookie cutter, cut cookies and place 2 inches apart on greased or parchment-lined baking sheets.  Place raisins.
Bake in pre-heated oven at 350 for 11-13 minutes.  Let cool 2-3 minutes and then decorate with icing.  Makes about 20 cookies.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Coconut Cake

My grandmother used to make coconut cakes, and I used to stare at them and think how beautiful they were.  To me, they looked like snow-covered mounds of happiness.  My birthday is December 20, and I just think this is a perfect cake for a winter birthday or even for Christmas.  

Cake Ingredients:
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk
4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

Frosting Ingredients:
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans, then line them parchment paper. Grease them again and dust lightly with flour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.

For the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extract on low speed. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until just smooth (don't whip!).

To assemble, place 1 layer on a flat serving plate, top side down, and spread with frosting. Place the

second layer on top, top side up, and frost the top and sides. To decorate the cake, sprinkle the top with coconut and lightly press more coconut onto the sides. Serve at room temperature.

Thanks, Ina!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

How to Roast a Turkey

It seems like a daunting task if you've never done it before, but it's really quite easy.  You don't even have to get up at 3 am to stick it in the oven.  I used to believe that my grandmothers got up in the middle of the night to put the turkey in to roast all day, but when I found out I didn't have to do that, all was well with the world.  

What to do....  Most people buy a frozen turkey.  You need to let it thaw in the refrigerator for about 3 days.  Any other way could be unsafe.  Once it's thawed, take it out of the covering.  Remove any packaging or giblets, which are stuffed into the turkey's backside and/or neck cavity. 

Rub the turkey, inside and out, with a couple of sticks of butter at room temperature.  Put the turkey in a roasting pan.  Put in 2-4 cups of chicken broth in the pan.  Sprinkle on some fresh rosemary, thyme, and cracked pepper.  If you want, put some sliced lemon and a couple of cloves of garlic in the body cavity. 

Cover the turkey with an aluminum foil tent, loosely.  In a 350 degree oven, place the turkey inside. The rule of thumb for cooking a turkey is 13 minutes per pound. So our 16-pound turkey should have taken about 3 1/2 hours to cook.  Take the foil tent off about an hour before you take the bird out of the oven.

Every 45 minutes, baste the turkey with it's own juices.

To make sure that turkey is fully cooked through and through, we like to check its temperature in three places: the breast, the outer thigh, and the inside thigh. In every case, the meat should be at least 165°F. If any place is under that temperature, put the turkey back in the oven for another 20 minutes. Shield the breast meat with foil if needed to keep it from overcooking.

Then, lift the whole turkey and transfer it to a cutting board. Tent the turkey with aluminum foil and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. This gives time for the meat to firm up and the juices to be re-absorbed into the muscle tissue, making the turkey easier to slice and taste juicier. 

Carve and enjoy!

Mashed Potatoes

During the holidays, especially in the South, we like to have a side of mashed potatoes to go with our meal, no matter if it's chicken, turkey, ham, or fish.  Mashed potatoes have to be the easiest side dish there is besides boiling down green beans with a little bacon on top!  

4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 Tbsp. Kosher salt
1 sprig of rosemary
2 bay leaves
ground black pepper
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 stick butter, chilled and cubed

In a big pot, fill up halfway with water.  Place potatoes in and then add more water, covering over 1 inch.  Boil for 25 minutes.  Drain potatoes and let rest for 20-30 minutes.  This step is important.

Meanwhile, heat milk, cream, rosemary, bay leaves, and pepper in a saucepan until mixture is very hot but not boiling (about 10 minutes).  Remove from heat and let mixture infuse for 20 minutes; strain. This will add herbal flavor without coloring the liquid.

Mix the potatoes and butter together in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the hot cream mixture. Season generously to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Pumpkin Pie

What's Thanksgiving without a pumpkin pie?  My family has always had pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner.  At some point, someone started making apple pie, pecan pie, chocolate pie, and sweet potato pie, but nothing will ever compare to a fresh pumpkin pie left out on the counter.

9-inch pie shell
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. molasses
1 1/2 Tbsp. melted butter
2 whisked eggs
1 1/2 cups milk

 Place pie shell in pie pan, pinching up the edges to allow for more pie filling.  When done, put the pie shell in the freezer.  The crust will stand up better during baking if you do this.

Mix sugar, spices, and cornstarch together.  Blend in molasses, butter, and eggs. Stir in the pumpkin until well blended.  Stir in milk slowly.  Pour into the pie pan.

Pour into pie shell and bake at 425°F for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes reduce the temperature to 350°F. Bake 40-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours. Note that the pumpkin pie will come out of the oven all puffed up (from the leavening of the eggs), and will deflate as it cools.