Friday, February 14, 2014

No More Sweetheart Shake Withdraw!

First off, I'd like to wish everyone a HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!  Whether you are celebrating this "Love Out Loud" day with friends, family, your sweetheart, or with a Game of Thrones marathon, I hope your day is full of love.

Now, for those of us who have a Sonic Drive-In nearby, you have probably become painfully aware of something different this February...Sonic is NOT serving their traditional Sweetheart Shake this year.  I know!  I don't usually eat at Sonic, but I look forward all year to February so that I can enjoy a delicious cherry and chocolate shake - all month long! So when I went to Sonic for my annual milk shake binge on February 1st, there was there was no "Our Sweetheart Shake is Back!" lettering on the marquee.  Instead there was something about pretzel buns for their hot dogs (which I'm sure is fine and dandy) and the Valentine's special treat this year is apparently this:

I'm sure this cake is tasty, but a Sweetheart Shake this is NOT.  The Sweetheart Shake has become a February tradition over the years, but Sonic has taken that tradition away for the 2014 Valentine's month. But see, I look at these sorts of obstacles as opportunities after I freak out for a couple of days. Since I couldn't get my Sweetheart Shake fix at Sonic, I decided to try it at home.

Sonic Sweetheart Shake

Sonic advertises that they use "REAL ice cream."  The fact that restaurants have been starting to say that now they use "real" ice cream freaks me out, I mean, what the crap were they using before?  But even if this "REAL ice cream" is in fact real (still not sure what that means), I'm betting that it isn't all natural and especially not organic.  I'm also positive that the cherry syrup, chocolate bits, and whipped cream have something bad in them, like high fructose corn syrup at the very least.  But sometimes there are certain things that taste so good, I'm willing to ignore these notions so that I may enjoy a brief dalliance.  But after being denied this Sonic slice of heaven, I realized that I didn't need them, and that I could not only make my own Sweetheart Shake, but that I could make it with ingredients that I was sure about.

So, here's what I used:

Some of it is organic, some of it isn't, but at least I know what is in it and I make sure that I use products that I am comfortable with.  Cherry pie filling can be tricky, because many name brands use high fructose corn syrup, but Duncan Hines Comstock Wilderness does not use it, and neither do the Target Market Pantry or Walmart brands.  So just check the label.  I usually keep a container of Alden's Organic Vanilla Bean Ice Cream on hand - but I eated it.  So I had some Breyers natural Homemade Vanilla for my shake, and since I will be using half a container of ice cream for 2 shakes, it is the cheaper choice.  Oh, and I always recommend making your own whipped cream because it is AMAZING!  You've never had whipped cream until you've had homemade whipped cream, and it is really easy.  I usually use Horizon heavy whipping cream, but they were totally out, so I got Target brand.

Make the whipped cream first.  I take a heavy glass bowl and my mixer beaters and put them in the freezer for about 10 minutes.  This helps the cream set up faster.  Get them out, and pour 1 cup of heavy whipping cream in the bowl.  Add about 1-1/2 to 2 Tbls. of sugar (depending on how sweet you like it), and a tsp. of pure vanilla extract.  Put the beaters in your mixer and whip on high speed going around the bowl continuously until the liquid firms up into a nice creamy whipped cream texture. Yup, that's it.  Set to the side.

Alright, let's put it together.  In a blender, put a little milk in the bottom, just to get the mixture going.  I put in about 1/4 cup.  Add more for a thinner shake, less for thicker.  Then scoop half of a 1.5 quart container of vanilla ice cream, then 1/2 of a 21 oz. can of cherry pie filling, and half of a 3.5 oz. bar of dark chocolate (crush it up into bits first).  Be sure to save a little crushed chocolate bits for the topping.  Blitz it until all is blended smoothly.

Get out two thick glass glasses and distribute the shake evenly between them.  Heap on some of that awesome whipped cream you just made, then sprinkle with the extra chocolate bits you saved.  Put in a straw and viola'!  You now have two splendid "Sweetheart Shakes" and you know exactly what's in them.  Not to mention, you still have enough ingredients to make another round ;)

Homemade Sweetheart Shake
My whipped cream stack fell over, but you get the idea.

So there you go.  No more Sonic Sweetheart Shake withdraws this February!  Enjoy, and have a very happy Valentine's Day weekend! <3

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Gumbo And Other Traditional Gameday Goodies

Ok, maybe gumbo isn't a "traditional" Superbowl snack, but here's your chance to add it to the usual suspect list of tailgating foods.  Just hear me out on this - read on.

Superbowl Sunday is upon us which is the perfect time to crack open either the Ohio State Cookbook or University of Oklahoma Cookbook, and make some great watch party treats!  Don't have hardback copies of these books on hand?  No worries, you can download digital copies of them to your Kindle right now at these links:  OSU Kindle Edition - OU Kindle Edition.  

I personally will be making either my chicken quasadillas, Landrun Casserole (OU Cookbook p. 20) Field Goal Nachos, or Championship Chicken Wings (both in the OSU Cookbook pp. 4 & 10), or all of the above - I haven't decided yet.

But if you want something a little different that will feed a house full of rowdy guests and leave them feeling satisfied, I recommend gumbo.  Good, hearty gumbo will go a long way and it definitely warms you up on cold days - especially the ones this winter season has been doling out lately.

This recipe is a variation of the amazing gumbo recipe given to me by my friend Rachel.  I had never eaten gumbo before I had hers, and after one awesome party at her house with this dish served, I was hooked!  Gumbo is a great recipe for trying out new things.  You can play with the ingredients and add or take away whatever tickles your fancy.  So, I am going to give you my version of Rachel's recipe, then add your own variations.  Also, this is a one pan dish, so less cleanup (Hooray!).  Have fun and be creative! 

This is how this gumbo starts off - you know you want to try it!


5 or 6 Tbls. of olive oil
1/4 c of flour
1 onion (chopped)
2 ribs of celery (chopped)
2 green bell peppers (chopped)
5 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 box of chicken broth
1 lg can of chopped tomatoes
1-10 oz pkg of frozen sliced okra
1 bay leaf
6 tsp. of Tabasco sauce
4 tsp. Cholula sauce
2 boneless, skinless, and cooked chicken breasts (chunked)
1 pkg frozen shrimp (shelled and deveined)
3-4 flounder fillets (chunked)
2 cups of cooked rice
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp basil
Salt & pepper to taste


Heat 3 Tbls. of oil in a large cooking pot on med-high.  Add onions, celery, bell pepper, and garlic and sauté for about 5-7 minutes, or until the veggies are tender.  Add in the rest of the oil and the flour.  Stir until the mixture starts to thicken. Gradually add the broth, stirring constantly.  Add tomatoes, okra, bay leaf, Tobasco, Cholula sauce, and spices.  Bring the mixture to a boil then add the pre-cooked chicken. Cover and let it simmer for about 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the lid and add in the shrimp, fish, and rice.  Stir it all together and let it cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until the shrimp are heated through.  Serve with oyster crackers.  Don't forget, you can add a whole plethora of other ingredients like spicy sausage, crawdads, oysters, etc.  Just do what you like.

And this is how this gumbo looks when it's done - nomnom!

UPDATE:  For those of you following my Facebook page, you know that I decided to try my hand at making turnovers for the first time this morning.  Most of this comes from an array of pie and pastry recipes, plus theories in my head - this is what I came up with...

Cherry & Cream Cheese Turnovers


14.5 oz. can pitted red tart cherries in water
1/4 c sugar
1-1/2 Tbsl cornstarch
1 tsp. vanilla extract (separated)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 sheets puff pastry (17.3 oz. box of frozen)
1/2 block cream cheese (softened)
1 c powdered sugar
3-4 Tbls. water (for desired icing thickness)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Get the puff pastry out of the freezer, unwrap and set to thaw on lightly floured wax paper (for about 45 min.).  In a small sauce pan, drain the cherry juice from the can and set cherries to the side.  Add cornstarch and sugar to the cherry juice and heat on medium stirring continuously until mixture is thick and goopy (mmmm).  Remove from heat and add the cherries, 1/2 tsp. of vanilla, and cinnamon. Blend thoroughly and set to the side.

In a small bowl, add remaining 1/2 tsp. of vanilla to the cream cheese and stir until blended smooth. Set aside.

I made triangular traditional turnovers as well as turnover bites to try out some things.  For the triangles, roll out one sheet and cut into four equal pieces starting at one corner and slicing to the one opposite. Repeat.  For the bites, I just cut along the 2 lines left by the folds of the second pastry sheet - giving me 3 wide strips.  Each strip I then cut in half.

Ok, for the turnovers, I put a litte more filling in than it would hold, so it got messy, so after recalculating, I would say put about 1 Tbls. of cherry filling on one half of each triangle, then top the filling with about 1/2 Tbsl. of cream cheese mixture.  Wet the edges of the pastry with water. Take one corner and fold it over the mixture to meet the opposite corner, encasing the cherry mixture.  Use a fork around the edges to seal.  Do the same with the bites, only use about 1 tsp. of cherry filling and 1/2 tsp. of cream cheese.  Fold into a square instead of a triangle.

Transfer to parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes, then remove and let cool for about 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the powdered sugar and water until thick and smooth.  Transfer to a ziplock bag and snip off a tiny bit of corner of the bag.  Pipe the icing over the turnovers in a zig zag pattern and enjoy!