» Baking «


Raspberry Drop Chocolate Cupcakes


Last weekend the hubby and I had our first outing with friends in Austin. After two weeks of unpacking, rearranging, exploring, getting stuck in traffic, filling out paperwork, and getting stuck in more traffic we were invited to dinner by a fellow PhD student from Jack’s program. Our task: dessert.

Raspberry Drop Chocolate Cupcakes - Sweet Peonies

I decided to branch out from my typical go-to desserts and make something new. Austin’s fresh, organic fruits and vegetables have completely won me over so I wanted to make a dessert that would highlight one of these beauties. The result? Raspberry drop chocolate cupcakes. With a hint of coffee and a fresh juicy raspberry baked into the center, the cupcakes were covered in rich chocolate frosting and finally sprinkled with lemon zest. Unfortunately, the Texas heat turned my frosting into more of a glaze but they were still incredibly satisfying.

Raspberry Drop Chocolate Cupcakes - Sweet Peonies

The recipe I used comes from a magazine the hubby bought for me a while back, “Taste of Home 100 Best Desserts.” I altered a few minor ingredients and instructions. The original recipe called for a drop of seedless raspberry jam in the center but I wanted the tangy flavor of a fresh raspberry instead. I also left out the coffee liquor in the frosting, mainly because I didn’t have any, but also because the added liquid would not help the frosting harden in this heat. My last change was adding the lemon zest on top. It seems small and perhaps insignificant but I loved the faint hint of lemon and raspberry with every bite.

Raspberry Drop Chocolate Cupcakes - Sweet Peonies

The recipe said it made 2 1/2 dozen cupcakes, but I would estimate it making closer to 3 1/2 dozen. I filled my cupcake liners 2/3 full and after 2 dozen, still had close to half the batter leftover. My last observation, the batter looked more liquid-y than any other cupcake recipe I have used. I was very skeptical that it wouldn’t cook in the time allotted but they cooked perfectly. So, if you are anything like me and tend to change recipes before seeing them through to completion, don’t do it. Trust me, you will be pleasantly surprised on this one.

Raspberry Drop Chocolate Cupcakes - Sweet Peonies

I’ll leave you with the recipe now while I figure out what to do with 3 1/2 dozen cupcakes.

Raspberry Drop Chocolate Cupcakes

Batter 1 c. baking cocoa 2 c. boiling water 1 c. butter, softened 2 1/2 c. sugar 4 eggs 2 tbsp cold brewed coffee 2 tsp vanilla 2 3/4 c. flour 2 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp salt 1 small package fresh raspberries

Frosting 1 can coconut milk (13.6 oz) 1 pkg. dark chocolate chips (12 oz) 1/2 c. butter, cubed 1/3 c. confectioners sugar 1 lemon (to zest)

I recommend beginning with the frosting, which is supposed to refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours, a detail I missed on the first read-through. Translation: long pause between cupcakes being complete and being able to chow down on the finished product.

Spoon 1 cup of cream from the top of coconut milk and place into a saucepan to boil. Once the cream starts to boil, remove from heat and add chocolate chips, whisking smooth. Stir in butter and confectioner’s sugar. Refrigerate for 1 1/2 hrs or until well chilled.

Now to the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine cocoa and boiling water and set aside to cool.

In a second bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until well combined. Add coffee and vanilla. Combine flour, salt, baking powder & soda and add to creamed mixture alternately with cocoa mixture.

Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full, drop a whole raspberry into the center (no need to push it down, just set on top and the batter will cook up around it). Bake for 18-20 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool for at least 10 minutes before frosting.

Once the frosting has chilled, beat mixture until soft peaks form. They said this should take about 15 seconds. We had to take ours out of the fridge early due to poor planning and so it took longer than 15 seconds to see soft peaks.

Frost cupcakes. Grate lemon zest over frosting and top it all off with another raspberry. Enjoy!


It’s Graduation Thyme!


It is finally here, after 7 long years of dedicated studies I am finally graduating with my BSN degree! I must apologize for the lack of posting this semester, my mother’s mantra still rings in my head, “studies come first,” and so, blogging has taken a back seat. However, with graduation less than a week away I wanted to share with you a few images from my graduation celebration wishlist.

The following are ideas I’ve combined to make a Graduation Thyme Garden Party Celebration come to life. I hope these ideas spark your creativity as you prepare for your own graduation celebrations in the coming weeks.

Minted garden party invitations Garden Party Invitations via Minted

Herb Favor Bags Herb Favor Bags via Move Nourish Believe

Garden Party Tablescape The Tablescape via HeatherBullard.com

Brioche, Peaches, Thyme garden party treat Brioche, Peaches and Thyme via Bayaderka

Good Ideas for You summer garden party ideas Flowers and Paper Bags via Good Ideas For You

Onto Baby Vintage Couples Shower Juice Bar (but add champagne for a mimosa bar) via Onto Baby

Thyme garden party decor Drying Thyme via French Larkspur

Berry Tart Berry Tarts via Belonika


Lower Your Grocery Bill & Monthly Meals (Part 2)


I hope you enjoyed Lowering Your Grocery Bill Part 1 of tips to lowering your grocery bill and preparing monthly meals. Today I am going to show you a sample meal plan with various recipes.

I mentioned in our first post that you should prepare your meals on a different day than your shopping day. We shop on Friday evenings when people are out painting the town red, this allows us to come home, put away groceries, soak beans, relax and then start fresh on Saturday morning. Prior to preparing your meals look at all of your recipes to consolidate prep time. If more than one recipe requires onions, then by all means, chop all of the onions at the same time. Trust me, this will save you oodles of time. Also, look for alternate cooking methods–if you have two items that can be baked at the same temp, prepare them first, put them in together, and move on to the next meal while they cook. You can also throw lots and lots of meals in a crockpot (chili!) while others are cooking in the oven.

Month #1

Dinners:
Roasted Red Potatoes, sauteed onions & salad
Chili over rice (don’t knock it til you’ve tried it)
Curried Carrot Soup
Grilled Eggplant Tomato Aioli Sandwiches
Grilled Chicken Salad
Chicken and Rice (with a variety of marinades & seasonings)
Burgers
Jerk Chicken Sandwiches
Frittatas

Sides:
Salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, pine nuts
Grilled Zucchini or zucchini salad
Red potatoes (smaller portion than the dinner potatoes)
dinner rolls
corn on the cob

Lunches:
PB&J
Tuna Sandwiches
Our favorite Rice and Beans with salad
yogurt
granola

Breakfast:
Toast
Eggs
Homemade granola

Here are some of the recipes I used and the ways I’ve adapted them to keep costs low. Although the recipes are simple you can mix them up quite a bit with different seasonings and by mixing up the paired sides. Also, most of my seasoning is done by taste and I am not shy at all with adding seasonings especially when it comes to garlic and curry so be generous, I’ll try to keep track of my amounts when these items come back into our rotation.

Dinners:

carrot soupCurried Carrot Soup:
Adapted to save money From Rachael Ray
12 servings/6 meals
(6 ziplocks filled with 2 c. each)

I used Rachael Ray’s recipe as a guideline for making a cheaper version of the soup. Since I was making a lot of soup (ended up being 12 individual meals), I used 1 whole bag of the giant carrots instead of the baby carrots, 1/2 stick of butter, 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1-1/2 onions (chopped), salt to taste, cayenne pepper to taste, curry to taste (lots and lots of curry–don’t be shy). I also added 3 tbsps of honey to sweeten it a bit and break up the heavy carrot taste, you can probably just use a 2 tbsp or so of regular sugar for this. Last change was cutting out the sour cream to keep it healthier. Also, these soups always seem a bit thicker after thawing them so Jack and I will add water, milk or cream to them to make it more soupy and give us a bit more per serving.

Roasted Red Potatoes:
Makes about 7 meals for 2, 1-5lb bag)
2-3 potatoes/person x 7

Jack and I wing this recipe every time. We ended up cutting 2-3 red potatoes into smaller cubes drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic, rosemary, pepper and a dash of salt. Toss potatoes to make sure they are thoroughly coated. Place in skillet, we use our cast-iron, place in oven at 350 degrees until they brown. Turn potatoes every 10 minutes to heat evenly and prevent burning. Pair with a larger portion of salad and veggies.

Also, did you know that according to food regulations, the bagged produce (like potatoes and onions) must weight at least what it says on the bag? Apparently this means that may times, distributors will throw in extra potatoes just to make sure they exceed the listed poundage. How does this help lower your grocery costs? If you weigh your bagged veggies, like onions and potatoes, you can end up with more bulk for your buck since the bags are a set price. Pretty neat, right?

Chili:
20 serv./10 meals
(10 ziplocks filled with 2 c. each)

My chili recipe changes each month depending on spices and what not but typically it takes 1 bag of beans (kidney, black or pinto–we like kidney best). Yes, I said bag, meaning you must soak them overnight or attempt the quick-soak method which requires bringing the beans to a boil then letting them sit in the water for 1 hour before cooking. I quick soak when we get back from the store and then throw them in the crockpot, cover with water and let cook overnight. In the morning, I brown 1 lb of ground beef and toss it into the crockpot along with lots of onions, chili powder, garlic, a little cumin, some tomato sauce (small can), 2 small tomatoes, Worcestershire and my favorite part of our chili recipe–cocoa powder! Seriously, this is the best discovery of my cooking life thus far. The cocoa gives the chili such an incredible savory taste. If your chili tastes too tomato-y, add brown sugar and Worcestershire to balance it out. I’ll be making a fresh batch next month and will write down my steps to share with you all. For now, don’t be afraid to use your favorite chili recipe. The main money saver is buying bagged beans, purcasing your produce from a produce stand or farmer’s market, making do with what you have on hand and limiting fancy ingredients.

Now, I must admit, we have a bit of a leg-up in the meat department. We buy local grass-fed beef once a year, and I work on the farm that we buy it from in the summer so that is extra money I don’t have to factor into my monthly totals (not that it would increase it too much). Just be aware this will raise your monthly amount a bit more than ours. However, if you are able to find some, I highly recommend buying grass-fed beef locally–it’s delicious! We buy about 30lbs and it lasts us the entire year, so we don’t actually eat very much beef.

Burgers:
Makes 10 burger patties

Since we have ground beef on hand it seems a shame to not make a round of tasty burgers. I hate preparing burgers for just one night, it’s a lot dirty work for just the two of us. I decided to see how well I could freeze these guys. I broke out 2 lbs of beef and added 1 chopped onion, about 1 cup of bread crumbs (depends on how juicy your meat is), garlic powder, pepper, 3 tbsp Worcestershire, basil and a touch of salt.

Perfect Burger PattiesNext, I made perfectly round patties by placing a large round cookie cutter onto wax paper and pressing the meat mixture into the cookie cutter as a mold which when lifted up, reveals a perfectly round patty. Yes, I like consistency that much. I experimented and wrapped some of the patties in foil then in saran wrap and some just in a healthy layer of saran wrap. Both seemed to keep well in the freezer. The 2 lbs made 10 burgers that we then paired with $.20 corn cobs from the produce stand down the road.

Egg, tomato, eggplant sandwichEggplant, Tomato, Aioli Sandwiches:
2 sandwiches/eggplant

I have already written an entire post on these bad boys. They are SO SO SO delicious. My favorite nights of the month are our hot sandwiches. Once again, be creative! There are so many different ways to combine your simple foods that turn them into favorite family recipes.

Chicken:
1 large package yields roughly 10 baggies for 2 people

We eat quite a bit of chicken but we have learned how to combine well with other sides to make it stretch. First of all, we almost always buy our chicken at Walmart, the large 5 breast packages, and usually when it is $.99/lb. We buy boneless, skinless breasts but there are other things like drumsticks and what not that you can buy cheaper if that is more your style. The reason we stick to breasts is because of their versatility.

chicken portionsThe only other prep task you might see us doing the same night of our grocery run is cutting up our chicken and placing it into smaller baggies. We slice the breast in half thickness-wise (so it’s half as thick making it a quick thaw) then cut into strips and place 2 serving sizes (3-4 oz–it’s a small handful) in one ziplock baggie. To give you an idea, Jack and I usually get about 10-12 baggies of cut-up chicken out of 1 large package of chicken.

Now you have chicken in meal bags ready to freeze. We typically pull out one bag of chicken/meal, thaw and cook to go on a salad or with rice. We also give variety to our chicken meals by adding marinades to the chicken prior to cooking or experimenting with the seasoning. One of my favorite ways to cook chicken is to sprinkle it with Salad Supreme, pepper and garlic, saute onions and serve with rice. Our first month we also ate Jerk Chicken sandwiches, where we simply pulled the chicken out, poured caribbean jerk sauce into the bag while it thawed, cooked the chicken and served on a burger bun kind of like a sloppy joe but with lettuce, tomato and onion. Delicious!

Since the chicken makes many loose bags in the freezer we store it in what used to be our ice bin. The bin seems to be the perfect size for a full month of chicken baggies.

Frittatas:
4-5 eggs/1 large frittata

Eggs are pretty stinking cheap around here. We buy ours at the little produce stand down the road for $.99/dz and since it’s at the produce stand we allow ourselves to buy it more than once a month. Jack eats one egg pretty much every morning but we have also incorporated eggs into our evening meals (the open-faced sandwiches and frittatas). The frittata ends up being about $2/meal for two people so it is great on the wallet. This is basically like scrambling eggs with veggies but here’s how we make it: Cut up some veggies (onion, green pepper, tomatoes) and sautee in olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan, season with garlic, curry, pepper and a little bit of salt. Whisk together 4-5 eggs in a separate bowl with about 1 tbsp of milk. Once the veggies are ready, spread them evenly around the bottom of the pan and pour the egg mixture over the top. Your eggs should fill all the space around the veggies and just barely reach the top of the veggies (so basically, you want to still see your veggies sticking out in various places, don’t cover them like a soup). Sprinkle the eggs with a bit more seasoning and place a lid over the pan and let cook for about 20 minutes. The eggs should fluff up nicely and create a little egg pie–kind of a quiche-like consistency without the crust. Cut into the middle to make sure your eggs are cooked all the way through. Pull out of the oven, allow to cool and serve with toast.

Sides:

I’m not sure I need much explanation on our sides. But here’s a quick overview:

saladSalads–just like any salad, we make do with what veggies we have on hand. Sometimes that can include many ingredients (cheese, cucumber, tomatoes, oriental noodles, onions, pine nuts, hard-boiled eggs) and other times we just use the last bits of produce in the house which may just be onion and tomato. Sometimes we buy salad dressing if it is on sale but often we make individual portions of dressing to go on our salad. This dressing is a mixture of balsamic vinegar(2 tbsp), olive oil(2tbsp), lemon juice (1/2-1tbsp), garlic powder and pepper. We just combine these until we’ve reached the right amount of zing.

The red potatoes we cook just like the dinner version but we usually just need 1/person, so it’s a smaller batch.

Grilled zucchini–cook however you normally would. We drizzle in olive oil with garlic and pepper sprinkled on top and place on the grill. We also grill it on skewers with peppers and onions.

Zucchini Ribbon SaladZucchini Ribbon Salad–Using a potato peeler, peel the zucchini in long ribbons and place in a bowl. Chop 1/2 of an onion and add to the bowl along with pepper and garlic (can you tell I like these two seasonings?). Prepare the balsamic/olive oil dressing listed above under “salads” and pour on top. I also usually have a package of pine nuts on hand for when I make pesto so I sprinkle those on top of this salad for a little added crunch. A small package of pine nuts costs about $2.38.

Corn and other veggies– just grill as you normally would. This veggie item varies according to which produce is the best price and better quality.

homemade dinner rolls Homemade Dinner Rolls– these are incredibly easy to make and cost nearly nothing if you typically have flour and yeast on hand.

Lunch:

Obviously sandwiches need little explanation but Jack’s favorite lunch meal, seasoned rice and beans, is so stinkin’ simple, I wonder sometimes why he loves it so.

On Sunday evenings I usually cook a small batch of brown rice (1-2 cups), pull out some extra beans that I’ve already cooked and put in the freezer and put about 1/2 cup of each into a lunch container. I also add a little pepper, salt and garlic along with a little chopped onion and tomato. In the other half of his lunch I chop up some lettuce and veggies and voila! A warm and healthy lunch for him to enjoy and it took me all of 10 minutes to throw together three for the week. Sometimes I’ll shred some cheese to go on the rice and beans, other times, if we’ve found tortillas on sale that month, I’ll give him a tortilla to wrap the mixture into, just to give a little bit of variety. Of course, he likes his staples and still swears the simple rice and beans mixture is his favorite lunch item.

Jack also makes homemade granola to eat with yogurt for snacks or lunches.

Here is a link to my grocery list from month #1. Keep in mind, I chose my menu recipes based on some of the ingredients already in my home. This is very important to keeping your grocery bill low. It takes a few extra minutes to take inventory of your fridge, freezer and cupboards but it lowers the cost tremendously. Google Recipes can come in handy here if you don’t yet have staple meals for various recipes. You can go to Google and type in “chili recipes” then over on the left column click the items you already have and see what links appear that use those items. From there figure out what else you would need from the store to make that recipe. This was very helpful when I wanted to find a carrot soup recipe.

Anyways, I say all that to inform you that if the item is not on my grocery list but I listed it above in my recipe instructions, I already had that item at the house. In month #1 this mostly pertains to seasonings. Also, although throughout the month we buy our produce at various farmer’s markets and the local produce stand, our first trip of the month we tend to buy the bulk produce and maybe a few other items if needed at the store.

Ok, I think that is plenty of information for you all to process. Keep in mind this was my very first month of monthly meal planning so, now looking back, the meals are terribly exciting but they tasted good and worked well throughout the entire month. We even had leftovers of some of these items to use in month #2 which helped break up the meal routine.

As always, let me know if you have any questions at all or if anything is unclear. Good luck!


Homemade Dinner Rolls


To continue my attempt at stocking our freezer (Lower Grocery Bills & Freezer Meals), I decided to bake homemade rolls to accompany our soups. I usually direct all bread-making ventures to Jack because, unlike me, he is patient. When I bake I want to prepare the food, put it in the oven, wash the dishes, and pull the food out of the oven. Simple, easy, no hassle, and no waiting between steps. All that to say, these are the characteristics I look for in a bread recipe–I know, it’s sad, but this time it worked!

homemade rolls

This recipe is incredibly easy and really doesn’t take long. I followed it to a tee, but changed the seasonings on top.

“My Favorite Buttermilk Dinner Rolls” from The Bread Bible (slightly altered):

Ingredients:

1 tbsp dry yeast
Pinch of Sugar
1/4 c. warm water
1 c. warm buttermilk
2 tbsp. honey
4 tbsp. butter
1 large egg
2 tsp. salt
4 c. all-purpose flour (plus some for dusting during kneading)

Directions:

1.) In a small bowl combine yeast, sugar and water. Dissolve and let stand until foamy, roughly 10 minutes.

2.) In a large bowl, combine buttermilk, sugar, butter (melted), egg, and salt. Mix in 1-1/2 c. flour and yeast mixture. Beat on high for 2 minutes.

3.) Continue to add the remainder of the flour 1/2 c. at a time with a wooden spoon.

4.) Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, 4-7 minutes by hand. Use flour to prevent sticking, 1 tbsp at a time.

5.) Grease a large bowl and place smooth dough inside. Turn dough over so top is greased. Cover the bowl with saran wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 1-1/2 hours.

6.) Deflate dough and turn out onto floured surface. Divide dough in half and roll each into a 2 to 3 inch cylinder. Cut each into 8 equal portions. Roll each into a small oval.

7.) Lay dough balls on a greased baking sheet about 3 inches apart. Cover with saran wrap and let sit for 30 minutes.

8.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush each roll with egg glaze (1 egg, 1 tbsp water, 1 tbsp milk). Sprinkle the top of the rolls with garlic, thyme, sesame seeds and pepper (or choose your own combination).

9.) Cut small diagonal slashes on top of each roll. Place in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown. If using 2 baking sheets, switch top to bottom halfway through baking process.

10.) Allow to cool before serving and enjoy!

These rolls freeze beautifully. Just make sure you seal them up nice and tight and try to get all the air out of the bag or container you store them in to reduce the chance of moisture getting trapped inside.


Lazy Chocolate Spice Cake


After a rigorous year of classes, I can finally say my hardest year of nursing school is complete! Today was my last final and I can’t express how much relief I am feeling right now. Here’s a small glimpse into my life these past few weeks… as if finals aren’t bad enough with cumulative nursing tests, we had a grand total of 12 tests piled on for our last three weeks of classes. Can we say “insane?!” That’s what I thought. Anyways, it is over and I am relieved and ready to finally be in my final year of nursing. This degree (and the attempted others) has been a very long time in the making and I am so excited to be so close to the finish line.

Now, I say all these details about my finals to butter you up since my posts the last few weeks have been scattered and brief. But guess what? All that is about to change! Jack is helping me with some exciting changes for the blog including, a new title and domain, new categories, design changes and hopefully a much better posting schedule. You can look forward to all these changes taking place in about a month (poor Jack still has classes to finish).

Now on to the fun stuff…

This weekend, in the midst of all my studying, I had one of those moments where I simply couldn’t go a minute longer with being crafty. I settled for baking since it is quick and I get to enjoy it for days to come (this cake didn’t last that long). Since I was short on time I cheated and brought out a boxed (gasp), yes, boxed Dunkin Hynes spice cake. Of course, I couldn’t just make a boxed cake so I added 2 tbsp of chocolate baking powder and 2 tsp of vanilla. I then added all the ingredients on the back of the box (3 eggs, oil, water) and threw it in the oven for 25 minutes.

This was a huge success. I really wasn’t expecting much out of this haphazard baking attempt but the finished result was tasty and moist–really, what else matters? I also had half of a package of cream cheese in the fridge so I softened the block, added about 1-1/2 cups of powdered sugar, 2 tsp of vanilla and a smidge of milk. And voila! Delicious cream cheese frosting (spread between the cake layers). Chocolate spice cake, cream cheese frosting, pear slices on top–trust me, this is a winning combination.

So there you have it, my lazy chocolate spice cake for those of you with crazy lives like mine. Keep checking back with us, lots of fun projects coming up. Happy baking!



Watermelon Turtle + Edible Books


The Milligan library held their second annual Edible Books Festival this week (year #1 here). My contributions included a “Holes” carrot cake made with graham crackers, coffee frosting and cinnamon as well as a “Tortoise and the Hare” watermelon turtle, complete with hair-get it? I crack myself up.

Anywho, I thought I’d share a few quick and dirty instructions for carving Mr. Turtle. I’ve seen several versions of this turtle but the one at Down Memory Lane is my favorite.

Instructions:
1. Cut watermelon in half along the longer line.

2. Use a melon-baller, or if you don’t have one (like me) use a metal measuring spoon-1/4 tsp, and scoop out as much watermelon as possible.

3. Scrape all remnants of the watermelon out of each side.

4. Take one side of the watermelon, and draw an oval-shaped shell, four feet, and a head with a dry-erase marker (dry-erase makes it easy to wipe off once you’re done carving).

5. Carve out your shapes.

6. With a flat head screwdriver, carve out the lines on your shell. If you are afraid to eyeball it, use the dry erase marker to draw your shapes. I basically just dragged the flat edge back and forth to make the lines–took about 15 minutes total.

7. Poke two small holes in the head and poke in two whole peppercorns for eyes.

8. Use toothpicks to secure your legs and head to the shell.

9. All that’s left is filling the non-shell side with fruit (and adding strawberry-leaf hair if desired). I used the previously scooped melon balls, strawberries and grapes as filling.

This turtle is really easy to make and adds a fun element to any party.

Here’s a little shot of the carrot “Holes” cake. I basically just used a round cookie cutter to make the holes, crumbled the cake into piles and added ground-up graham crackers so it looked more textured and desert-like. I also sprinkled cinnamon into the holes and on one side of the mounds to act as a sort of shading. The “shovels” are broken wood skewers and the rocks are ginger candies.

Some of my other favorites from Edible Books 2012 were “Where’s Wal-dough” (cookie people with Waldo hiding among them) by Grace Jackson, “Pigs in Heaven” (a plate of bacon) by Seth and Stacey Tramel, and “Book of Fungi” with meringue mushrooms (I totally thought they were real mushrooms) by Meredith Sommers.

If you ever have the opportunity to bake for an Edible Books event, DO IT! It’s so much fun! I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tutorial. Let us know how your watermelons turn out. Happy carving!


Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe


When individuals think about that moist, delicious, classic chocolate chip cookie, they typically don’t think wheat. However, ever since the hubby went on a wheat bread craze, we’ve had a lot of wheat flour in the house. Last year, he decided to try out some wheat chocolate chip cookies and we’ve loved the combination of chocolate and wheat ever since. So delicious!

I needed a batch of cookies in a hurry this afternoon so I went to a never-fail baker–good ol’ betty Crocker. This is basically Betty’s recipe with a few simple alterations to make it more moist.

Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies Ingredients * 3/4 c. brown sugar * 3/4 c. sugar * 1-1/4 c. butter * 1 egg * 2 c. whole wheat flour * 1-1/2 tsp vanilla * 1/2 tsp baking soda * 1/4 tsp cinnamon Directions 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 2. Combine the sugar, butter and eggs in a large bowl. 3. Add flour, vanilla, baking soda and cinnamon. If you are feeling adventurous, add 1 tbsp of honey. 4. Line your pan with wax paper or coat with cooking spray. 5. Drop spoonfuls of batter onto your cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. 6. Cook for 10-12 minutes.

That’s it–tasty cookies, with a little less guilt, in about 30 minutes. Happy baking!


Lemon-Berry Pie Jars


Working in a public relations office and running a blog definitely has its perks. This past week I was asked to help bake treats for the re-accreditation committee coming to review our college. My contribution was one of multiple treats and favors made by alumni and faculty. After much deliberation I decided to make pie–not just any pie, mini pies in cute little jars–who could resist?

lemon berry pie

Berry pies are not terribly difficult to bake so I was at a loss for how to spice up my treat. I settled on creative crusts and lots of lemon. For my first trial pie, I used raspberries and lemon zest. The lemon zest alone didn’t give it enough pizzazz so I altered my ingredients and came up with this tasty recipe.

lemon berry pie

Lemon-Berry Pie Jars Yield: 6 pie jars Ingredients * 1-10 oz. bag frozen raspberries * 1-14 oz. bag frozen blackberries * 1/2 c. sugar * 1 tsp lemon juice * 1.5 tbsp tapioca * 1/4 tsp vanilla * 1/4 tsp cinnamon * 1 lemon zest (whole lemon) * 3 c. flour * 1/4 tsp salt * 2/3 c. shortening * 6 tbsp cold water Directions 1. Thaw berries and drain in a strainer. 2. Place berries, lemon juice, sugar, tapioca, zest, cinnamon and vanilla into a large bowl. Gently combine until berries are well coated. 3. Allow to sit for 20 minutes. 4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare the dough. 5. For the pie crust, combine flour and salt. 6. Cut in the shortening a small amount at a time. I use a fork for this portion of the process. Scoop out a little shortening at a time and press the clumps into the flour. You want to see the flour turn crumbly. 7. After all the shortening is combined. Add cold water one tablespoon at a time. Toss dough until it forms an even mixture. This is the point where most instructions will tell you to refrigerate the dough for at least one hour. I have done this with and without refrigeration and honestly couldn\'t tell the difference, so, I leave it up to you. 8. The last step is filling your container-of-choice and laying the crust over the top. For my jars, I used two different types of flowers cookie cutters and laid the first pattern over the top of the jar. I cut the middles out of each flower with a frosting tip. The second, smaller cookie cut-out I baked separately on a cookie sheet. 9. Brush your crust with egg wash (1 egg and 2 tbsp water) before placing in the oven and again after 10 minutes. Don\'t forget to also sprinkle the crust with cinnamon and sugar. 10. Bake for at least 15 minutes (see baking precautions below). 11. The berries are full of liquid so you need to monitor the pies carefully. I didn\'t want the berries overflowing onto my crust so I let it bake until the juice started bubbling over (about 15 minutes), then removed the pies from the oven to cool for a a few minutes before putting them back in under the broiler to finish browning the crust (about 15 minutes). 12. I finished my pie packaging by hot gluing fake leaves onto the side of the jars and tying them with twine.

Happy Baking!


Granola Trail Mix


Jack and I are always looking for low-calorie, high protein and of course, good tasting snacks to hold us over throughout the busy day. We have been trying out various trail mix varieties over the last few weeks and finally figured out an inexpensive way to make our very own.

homemade granolaInstead of using a nut-based mix, we decided to use granola as the main ingredient and add in mixed nuts, M&Ms, and craisins. We bought a bulk bag of craisins for $3 and a bulk nuts for $4.

As for the granola, all it takes is a few cups of old-fashioned oats.

Granola:

3 c. old-fashioned oats
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 c. honey
1/4 c. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla

_Directions:_

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine oats, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Combine remaining ingredients in a separate bowl. Pour honey mixture over oats-coat thoroughly. Once the oats are coated, spread onto a cookie sheet, thin and even. Place in oven. Stir the granola at least every 12 minutes to keep it from burning–you really don’t want this to burn. Remove granola from oven after 30 minutes or when oats turn a golden brown. Allow to cool completely. Add mixed nuts, fruit, chocolate, craisins or whatever else you can think of to spice up your trail mix. Here’s where I learned all about granola making.

Adding fruit to your mix can become quite expensive, however you can easily dry your own fruit pieces. Jack is currently drying mangoes to add to our mix–yummy!

I used 1/4 of the bag of craisins and 1/4 the box of nuts with 1 batch of oats to yield about 8 cups of trail mix. Why is this important to note? We can make a few more batches!

You can also skip the trail mix and simply eat the granola for breakfast.


Lemon Chocolate Truffles


Just a few lemon chocolate truffles to share with you for Valentine’s day.

You can find the recipe at Swapna’s Cuisine. First, I made her version using white chocolate…

Then I made them with milk chocolate. This version has a flavor combination similar to the orange -chocolate eggs, surprisingly delicious.

The envelope was for Jack’s card. I simply wrapped red string around it until I approved of the pattern.

Hope you all are able to spend some time with those you love and who love you. Happy Valentine’s Day!


100 Posts + Lemon Cake


Today we are celebrating our 100th post! What better way to celebrate this milestone than with a moist lemon cake and meringue-ish frosting? Hooray!

When I realized last week that I had just published post #99, I couldn’t decide what project was worthy of #100. So I finally decided to allow my hectic schedule to dictate the project depth, and thus my free time this week allotted enough time to bake a single cake.

I chose to bake a lemon cake for two reasons:
1.) I had leftover Meyer Lemons from an impulse buy (they were so pretty).
2.) I had never attempted a plain lemon cake.

Plain lemon cake may not seem like much in the way of motivation, however, as an ex-hater of all things lemon, I now feel the need to devour as much citrus-flavored goodness as humanly possible. So, that’s the story of how I came to bake a lemon cake.

While scouring the internet for lemony treats, I decided to abide by three rules for choosing the recipe:
1.) Simple
2.) Legitimate source
3.) Already purchased ingredients

As typically happens, my friend Martha Stewart came to my rescue. Martha’s lemon cake is a slight variation of her vanilla cake, which was perfect considering, I love her vanilla cake. Really, you can’t go wrong. She also used a whipped frosting on top which looks meringue-like but is actually lighter, almost foamy.

This lemon cake was incredibly moist with just the right amount of lemony goodness. So, if you’re looking for a simple, fail-safe, and super-moist cake recipe, Martha’s Lemon Cake is the way to go.

And so, here we are–100 posts down and hopefully many more to come. Thank you to all my diligent readers who hang in there with me through the good, the bad, and the ugly posts.

On another miletsone note, we are quickly coming up on the one year anniversary of The Kitchen Curtains and I would love to hear from you. Please shoot me an email or leave a comment letting us know what your favorite post has been so far.

Happy 100!


No Bake Bites


You remember how I made all those healthy freezer meals for the hubby and I to enjoy this semester? Well, if you’ve learned anything about me from reading this blog, it is most likely the fact that I love sweets. Yes, I admit I have a bit of a sweet tooth. And when I say “a bit” I really mean, “I would probably die without sweets.” Dramatic? Perhaps. However, I’m pretty sure my husband (who has to make midnight Sonic runs) would agree that the above statement is indeed accurate.

Where am I going with all this? While preparing an abundance of healthy and appropriately portioned meals, I reached a point where I couldn’t stand to look at one more vegetable, and then, I caved.

Here’s my philosophy (also known as justification): healthy eating deserves unhealthy rewards (sound familiar). Where’s the fun/motivation in eating well if you can’t treat yourself to something bad from time to time?

With that in mind, I set to work whipping up these easy and surprisingly, not too unhealthy, No Bake Bites.

I’m sure most of you have made these tasty treats once or twice. I used this No-Bake Cookie recipe from Skinny Taste (a great website for low fat, family-friendly recipes). I liked Gina’s version better than my no-bake recipe mainly because they stick together well for rolling into balls, thus making it easier to have a consistent size, and thus a consistent measurement of calories per cookie bite. According to her blog, 1 serving=2 cookies for a total of 105 calories.

Once the cookies were cooled and covered in powdered sugar, I split them equally into four bags, froze three, and put one in the fridge for us to enjoy after meals. Once we start getting low, I simply pull out another bag to thaw so we never find ourselves wishing for chocolate and settling on something five times worse for us to eat.

Oh and one more thing, these are delicious! Trust me, they’ll satisfy that late night sweet craving. Enjoy!


Lemon Molasses Spice Cake + Maple Syrup Frosting


Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope right about now your tummies are full and you are enjoying friends and family. For our Thanksgiving, Linda invited us out to the farm to celebrate with her family. I was asked to contribute a dessert–one dessert…too many options.

In an attempt to branch out from my typical holiday dessert contribution, rum cake, I decided to try making a spice cake of sorts to take to the farm. I already had a box of Duncan Hines lemon cake mix, and in an attempt to not waste, I decided to add spices to the pre-made mix and see what happened. Although the finished appearance was less-than-wonderful, the cake tasted absolutely delicious and super moist!

Spice Cake Ingredients:

1 box of lemon cake mix (Duncan Hines)
1/2 c. molasses
1 1/3 c. water
1/4 c. oil
3 eggs
2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

The maple syrup frosting is courtesy of Country Living.

Maple Syrup Frosting:

2 1/4 c. confectioners’ sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
8 tbsp. (1 stick) butter
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 c. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. whole milk

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, water and oil. Add molasses and eggs. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add spices.

Grease two circular cake pans with shortening. Divide batter between pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool completely before removing from pans.

While cakes are cooling, prepare the frosting by mixing the sugars, butter and salt on medium speed. Continue beating and add the maple syrup in a slow stream. Add the vanilla and continue to beat until light and fluffy, add milk as needed.

P.S. If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m extremely thankful to have my own kitchen in which I can bake whenever and whatever I want to.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Hot Chocolate Cupcakes + Cinnamon Frosting


Can I tell you a sad story? I haven’t baked in a month. True story. On Thursday, I was working on homework and I my oven called to me…or maybe it was my sweet tooth. Either way, it was time to bake. Our weather has been incredibly cold this week, I’m thinking winter is definitely here. So what better way to celebrate than with hot chocolate cupcakes and cinnamon frosting!

I saw a facebook status that someone had made hot chocolate cupcakes so I set scoured the internet in search of a recipe.

Here are two that I thought looked most appealing:

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

I didn’t have any unsweetened baking cocoa in the house and saw other recipes where they used an actual cup of hot chocolate so I figured, why not give it a shot?

The frosting is basically the same as the one for my Rummy Shortbread Cookies except, no rum and I added 2 tsp. of cinnamon.

Hot Chocolate Cupcakes:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup hot water
2/3 cup Godiva hot chocolate
3/4 cup shortening
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Instructions:

First, heat your oven to 350 degrees. If you have a silicone cupcake tray like me, lightly butter your tray. If you have a metal tray, line the muffin cups with paper liners.

Grab a bowl and mix flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, mix hot water and Godiva hot chocolate until dissolved.

In a large bowl, beat shortening for 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar and beat well after each addition. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time. Alternate adding flour and cocoa mixture to the mixture, don’t over mix.

Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Allow cupcakes to cool slightly before moving them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Tip: While these were baking, they seemed to puff in the middle then settle so they have a weird hollow middle but once they cool and settled they looked and tasted fine, without any hollow middle. So don’t worry if you go to stick a toothpick in and get a pocket of air.

Happy Baking!


Guest Post: No-knead bread


_I have one more test before Fall break so I apologize, once again, for the “few and far between” posts. However, today you are in luck… Meredith has written another guest post for you all! Today she is sharing a fabulous recipe for no-knead bread.
_
My husband is the bread-baker in our family. When I met him, I’d been baking my own bread for about a year, because I’m a good baker. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to do bread. But I’d messed it up differently every time. Forgot the salt. Didn’t knead long enough. Under-baked. Burned. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Then I met Jon, who worked at a bakery in our neighborhood. A wonderful bakery, with fabulous artisan breads, baked in an amazing multi-deck stone hearth oven. At the time, he worked mixing and benching, and eventually he started baking. He brought home more bread than we could eat. Then he started practicing at home. He never forgets the salt.

So I quit messing with bread. We moved to Northeast Tennessee, and our artisan bread options are limited. Jon bakes some, but he’s working full-time and going to school full-time, and time is precious. So we’ve been making do with the grocery store stuff, the sliced kind for my son’s pb & j’s, and an occasional “artisan-style” loaf for my morning toast.

Then Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread, no stone hearth required, started drifting in and out of my attention. I vaguely remember hearing about this on NPR some years ago, and not really paying attention because I’m not the bread-baker.  But a little over a year ago, a friend served no-knead bread at a dinner party. And it was delicious. Then, for Christmas, we received Amanda Hesser’s The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century, which reprints favorites from the past 150 years or so of Times food writing. And it includes this recipe. Several months later, I’ve finally gotten around to trying it. (It was the first esting time that got me. Figuring out when to start this so that 12-18 hours later I could work with it, and then have 3 more hours or so before it was finished required waaay too much math.)

Yesterday, after really wanting toast for breakfast and having Corn Flakes instead, I decided to try it.  While the kids ate dinner, I put together the dough.

  • 3 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water
     Mix together in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rest 12-18 hours.
This morning, the dough had risen considerably, and was speckled with bubbles about to break through. I let it go until 10:15 or so, about 16 hours after I’d mixed it up (less because of its readiness – Hesser says 18 hours is preferable, but that it’s ready when covered with little bubbles – and more because that timing worked out well for my chances of working without the kids’ “help.”)
     Here the directions say to turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, and fold over itself once or twice. I chose twice, and the dough smoothed into a neat little roundish packet. After covering it loosely with plastic wrap and letting it rest 15 minutes, I floured my hands, shaped it into a ball (sort of – it’s a really loose dough), and set it on a towel (not terrycloth) covered with cornmeal. A little more cornmeal on top, cover with another towel, and let rise 2-2 1/2 hours. When it’s ready to bake, it won’t spring back readily when pressed with fingertips.
     While it rose (just before taking my kids upstairs for naptime), I turned on the oven to preheat my pot. I’m saving my money and watching clearance racks for [dream pot](http://www.csnstores.com/popups/media_viewer_images.php?sku=SAB1087), so this time I just used my regular All Clad stainless 8 quart soup pot. A heavier pot with a tighter-fitting lid probably would’ve worked better, but this one did just fine. I heated it at 450 while I put the kids down, and by the time they were asleep the bread was ready to go. Out came the pot, in went the bread, down went the lid, and into the oven. After half an hour, I took the lid off, and left it for another 20 minutes or so to brown up.
     And I have to say, it’s decent bread. Not quite as tall as I might like, perhaps, but for the effort expended . . . it’s fantastic! And it’ll hold up admirably to butter & jam in the morning. I’m a happy girl.

September Daring Baker Challenge


I had the privilege of participating in my first ever “Daring Baker” challenge. What is Daring Baker? Daring Baker comes from The Daring Kitchen a website that challenges both bloggers and non-bloggers to a different baking or cooking challenge each month. The bloggers attempt a difficult recipe, then blog about it on the same day each month, revealing to their readers what the secret challenge was. I joined in August and was ready for my first challenge this month, and what a time to start!

The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!

Lucky for me, croissants are a baking challenge I’d been dying to try ever since watching “It’s Complicated”-with their bakery scene making pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants).

Now, I don’t know how many of you realize how truly involved the process of baking croissants can be (I didn’t). Perhaps you have a never-fail family recipe that you can whip up and serve hot, fluffy croissants in a jiff…

This is not one of those recipes.

My dough sat overnight twice, if that gives you an idea of the time investment. It is possible to make these in one day, if you have one FULL day to spend on croissant making (it takes 12 hours). I, however, did not. So there, you are warned.

I was surprisingly happy with how my croissants turned out, that is until I went to our secret forum to see the other blogger’s results. Some of them were out of this world fantastic. I’m jealous.

However, to be a good sport (and show you that croissants can be well-worth the effort), I am posting links to some of the croissant-bakers blogs that seemed to really outdo themselves. Be sure to visit and show them some love.

cuisine a 4 mains
la galletika
Tart to Heart

I think I’ve decided my issue was the second dough rise. I’m not exactly sure what went wrong (I followed the instructions to a T), perhaps the Tennessee humidity was my downfall. Hmmm…

I also wanted them to be a bit darker than the result. I did a double egg wash, coating the dough in a generous amount of egg/milk mix, and then again right before placing into the oven. Others did the same process with a much different result.

I read a few tips that may help those who prefer a dark shell:

1. use a pan that has low edges/rim so it doesn’t block heat from gliding across the croissants
2. space out your croissants placing only 6 on a pan (I put all 12 on one pan) in order to allow more circulation of heat

Audax Artifex has some great tips to getting beautiful croissants.

I ended up making a few plain croissants, pain au cholocat, and apples and cinnamon.

And without further ado, for the brave at heart, Julia Child’s Recipe (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 2). I have grouped the steps into manageable segments.

Ingredients

¼ oz (7 gm) of fresh yeast, or 1¼ teaspoon (6¼ ml/4 gm) of dry-active yeast (about ½ sachet)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) warm water (less than 100°F/38°C)
1 teaspoon (5 ml/4½ gm) sugar
1 3/4 cups (225 gm/½ lb) of strong plain flour (I used Polish all-purpose flour, which is 13% protein)
2 teaspoons (10 ml/9 gm) sugar
1½ teaspoon (7½ ml/9 gm) salt
½ cup (120 ml/¼ pint) milk (I am not sure if the fat content matters. I used 2%)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) tasteless oil (I used generic vegetable oil)
½ cup (120 ml/1 stick/115 gm/¼ lb) chilled, unsalted butter
1 egg, for egg wash

Directions:

1. Mix the yeast, warm water, and first teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl. Allow the yeast and sugar to dissolve and the yeast to foam slightly.
2. Measure out the other ingredients and heat the milk until tepid, dissolve in the salt and remaining sugar.
3. Scoop flour into a large bowl. Add oil, yeast mixture, and milk. Mix with a rubber spatula, don’t over mix.
4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and let it rest while you wash out the bowl.
5. Knead the dough eight to ten times. Check out this video from Julia Child.
6. Place the dough back in the bowl, and place the entire bowl in a plastic bag.
7. Leave the bowl at approximately 75°F/24°C for three hours, or until the dough has tripled in size.

8. After the dough has tripled in size, remove it gently from the bowl, pulling it away from the sides of the bowl with your fingertips.
9. Place the dough on a lightly floured board or countertop, and use your hands to press it out into a rectangle, about 8 X 12 inches (20cm X 30cm).
10. Fold the dough rectangle in three, like a letter (fold the top third down, and then the bottom third up).
11. Place the dough letter back in the bowl, and the bowl back in the plastic bag. Leave the dough to rise for another 1.5 hours, or until it has doubled in size. This second rise can be done overnight in the fridge.

12. Place the double-risen dough onto a plate and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place the plate in the fridge while you prepare the butter.
13. Once the dough has doubled, it’s time to incorporate the butter. Place the block of chilled butter on a chopping board.
14. Using the rolling pin, beat the butter down a little, till it is quite flat. Use the heel of your hand to continue to spread the butter until it is smooth. You want the butter to stay cool, but spread easily.
15.Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured board or counter. Let it rest for a minute or two.
16. Spread the dough using your hands into a rectangle about 14 X 8 inches (35 cm bX 20 cm).
17. Remove the butter from the board, and place it on the top half of the dough rectangle.
18. Spread the butter all across the top two-thirds of the dough rectangle, but keep it ¼ inch (6 mm) across from all the edges.
19.. Fold the top third of the dough down, and the bottom third of the dough up. Turn the dough package 90 degrees, so that the top flap is to your right (like a book).
20. Roll out the dough package (gently, so you don’t push the butter out of the dough) until it is again about 14 X 8 inches (35 cm bX 20 cm). Again, fold the top third down and the bottom third up.
21. Wrap the dough package in plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge for 2 hours.

22. After two hours have passed, take the dough out of the fridge and place it again on the lightly floured board or counter.
23. Tap the dough with the rolling pin, to deflate it a little. Let the dough rest for 8 to 10 minutes.
24. Roll the dough package out till it is 14 X 8 inches (35 cm X 20 cm). Fold in three, as before.
25. Turn 90 degrees, and roll out again to 14 X 8 inches (35 cm X 20 cm). Fold in three for the last time, wrap in plastic, and return the dough package to the fridge for two more hours (or overnight, with something heavy on top to stop it from rising).

26. It’s now time to cut the dough and shape the croissants.First, lightly butter your baking sheet.
27. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it rest for ten minutes on the lightly floured board or counter. Roll the dough out into a 20 X 5 inch rectangle (51 cm X 12½ cm).
28. Cut the dough into two rectangles (each 10 X 5 inches (25½ cm X 12½ cm). Place one of the rectangles in the fridge, to keep the butter cold.
29. Roll the second rectangle out until it is 15 X 5 inches (38 cm X 12½ cm).
30. Cut the rectangle into three squares (each 5 X 5 inches (12½ cm X 12½ cm). Place two of the squares in the fridge
31. The remaining square may have shrunk up a little bit in the meantime. Roll it out again till it is nearly square. Cut the square diagonally into two triangles.
32. Stretch the triangle out a little, so it is not a right-angle triangle, but more of an isosceles.
33. Starting at the wide end, roll the triangle up towards the point, and curve into a crescent shape.
34. Place the unbaked croissant on the baking sheet
35. Repeat the process with the remaining squares of dough, creating 12 croissants in total.
36. Leave the tray of croissants, covered lightly with plastic wrap, to rise for 1 hour.

37. Preheat the oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9.
38. Mix the egg with a teaspoon of water (or milk). Spread the egg wash across the tops of the croissants.
39. Put the croissants in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the tops are browned nicely.
40. Take the croissants out of the oven, and place them on a rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

If you give these a try I would love to see the result so be sure to take pictures and send them my way. I’m hoping to give them another try soon. Best of luck and I look forward to sharing next month’s Daring Baker challenge with you all.


An Altogether Terrible Blog Post


This was the day. The day that I said, it can wait no more. This was the day I thought, “I must write an absolutely outstanding blog post for my readers today.”

It is now 8 p.m. and after 6 hours of mixing, rolling, stamping (yep, cookie stamps), and packaging 250 cookies for the Milligan College advancement office, I have decided that this is not the day.

Jack decided to document me after 6 straight hours of standing, mixing, etc. This is what I look like right now…

Here is me with 120 of my lovely cookies.

Here is me baking the last batch of cookies and imitating someone. I’m not really as mad as I look, I just get a little cranky when I’ve been standing this long.

Me, wondering how much longer Jack is going to snap photos.

And, of course, the cookies. The “M” is for MILLIGAN!

I have mentioned this recipe multiple times, but just in case you haven’t tried it yet here are my super yummy & simple shortbread cookies.

I am off to cram in a few hours of studying for my MedSurg test. Sorry I couldn’t roll out the blogging magic today folks. I promise I’ll make it up to you.

Thanks for stopping by!


Guest Post: Mint milk with chocolate ice cubes


Our guest post this week comes from Meredith of Garden in the South. Meredith is a talented cook, wife, and mother of two adorable children. She is our College Archivist and Information Resources Librarian. Jack and Meredith work together at the library and I’m so grateful they do because I have had the pleasure of getting to know her these past 2 years and she is fabulous! She cans, cooks, bakes amazing baklava and so much more. Please be sure to head over to her blog and show her a bit of love today.

First of all, I’d like to thank Tiffany for asking me to guest post! I blog (such as it is) at Garden in the South, but not nearly as often, or with as much focus as I’d like. C’est la vie, for now. But I love The Kitchen Curtains, and everything Tiffany posts I think, “Oooh! I want to try that!” So this is an honor.

The other day, my friend Sarah sent me a link to this [Vanilla Milk with Chocolate Ice Cubes](http://translate.google.com/translate?client=tmpg&hl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fsandrakavital.blogspot.com%2F2008%2F08%2Fchocolat-det-frais-et-gourmand.html&langpair=fr en “Le Petrin”) at Le Pétrin (Google translates this as “Trouble.” That seems an apt title, given the deliciousness of this recipe, and how much of it I want to drink.) I had to make it immediately, but first I had to go to the store for some chocolate (because all of mine was old and chalky looking) and instant coffee powder (which I generally do without, but often wish I had). I considered Via, because it’s better, but went with Maxwell House, because I think it’ll mix in more completely, being that it’s freeze-dried. Via, which I’ll drink in a pinch, is super-finely ground, and so doesn’t dissolve well. Also, it’s crazy expensive. So $2 jar of Maxwell House it is.

I also did not have a vanilla bean. Sarah used one for her Vanilla Milk, and I suspect it’s essential. In something this simple, extract might be a bit harsh. I also live far from my spice purveyor of choice, and definitely couldn’t wait for shipping. But I do have a beautiful pot of fresh mint, and very fond memories of a Fresh Mint-Chocolate Truffle Tart I’ve made a few times. Mint is refreshing, of course, and perfect for summer, but the herbal quality of the fresh mint steeped in the cream is a little unexpected and wonderful. So I decided to go with Mint Milk, instead. And I’m so very glad I did. I’m sure the Vanilla Milk is wonderful, but the Mint . . . Seriously. This might become a staple in my refrigerator. The Chocolate Ice is nice – it melts into the milk, and I think it’d be good in all sorts of drinks. But it was all my husband and I could do not to drink the milk right up, and make more immediately.

So here’s the recipe. I was going to be all helpful and do the metric-American conversion, but then I realized my handy 2-cup Pyrex has mls on the other side, and I’ll bet yours does, too.

For the Chocolate Ice:

200 ml milk

50 ml water

1 T instant coffee

1 T unsweetened cocoa powder

1 t sugar

70 g dark chocolate, 66% (I used a combination of 82% and 60%, because I forgot to write down what I needed before I went to the store, and was thinking I was looking for 77%. It worked out ok.)

Whisk the coffee, cocoa powder, and sugar together in a small saucepan. Whisk in the milk & water, and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking often. Meanwhile, finely chop the chocolate, and put into heatproof, pourable vessel (I used the aforementioned 2-cup Pyrex.) Pour hot liquid over chocolate. Let stand a few minutes, and whisk smooth. (The original suggests a wooden spoon, but I’m pretty excited about my new 4-inch whisk, so I used it.) Pour into ice cube tray, and freeze. This made 12 cubes for me.

For the Mint Milk:

600 ml milk (I used 500 ml 1%, which is what I had, with 100 ml 1/2 & 1/2 for richness. I think I’d just use the 1% next time – I’m not sure the creaminess added that much.)

60 g sugar (about 1/4 cup)

8-10 sprigs fresh mint

Heat the milk & sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. When milk is very hot and sugar dissolved, remove from heat, toss in mint sprigs, and cover. Let steep half an hour or so (I forgot to look at the clock when I started, which, of course, I didn’t realize until some time later.) Remove mint, and chill. I poured it through a strainer into a Mason jar, but there wasn’t really anything to strain out.

To Serve:

Place 2-3 cubes chocolate in glasses, and pour milk over. This recipe makes 4 servings (at three cubes each, and milk divided 4 ways.) I think next time, I’ll double the milk, and use 2 cubes per serving. We had a hard time sipping slowly enough to let the chocolate melt in, and ended up topping off with regular milk (and a splash of Bailey’s) just so we’ll have more Mint Milk left for tonight. But, seriously, the Mint Milk? You must try it.


Almond Vanilla Pound Cake


One of our regular farm ladies, Jane Mullins, has kindly shared her sour cream pound cake at two farm workshops now. One taste is all I needed, I’ve been raving about the cake for months. It is very moist with subtle hints of almond. Seriously, SO amazing!

I made the pound cake this weekend for a going-away party and unfortunately was too cheap to buy a bottle of almond extract so my cake was nowhere near as delicious as Jane’s. All that to say, don’t be cheap like me! Spend the $3.

Since I don’t believe I could ever come up with a better tasting pound cake, Jane has graciously allowed me to post her recipe for you all. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Ingredients:

3 cups sifted All-purpose flour
6 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Almond extract
3 cups sugar
8 ounces (1 cup) Dairy Sour Cream
1 cup real butter

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan and set aside. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Set aside.

Cream sugar and butter with mixer until fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and almond extract. Alternately beat in flour mixture and sour cream, beginning and ending with flour (Don’t over beat).

Pour mix into prepared pan. Bake 1 hour 15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 30 minutes in pan. Turn onto wire rack to cool completely. Eat alone or with berries and whipped cream. We used a Farmer’s Market raspberry sauce and whipped cream. Yum!

I didn’t have a tube pan like the one Jane used so instead I used my bundt cake silicone which is much more shallow. If you too have to use a more shallow pan be sure to reevaluate your timer setting. I only ended up cooking mine for 40 minutes instead of 1 hour 15 minutes.

This cake freezes well. Be sure to double wrap and thaw completely before serving. And, as always, enjoy!


The Best Banana Bread Recipe


Last night Jack and I went grocery shopping. Or as many here refer to it, we went to “the grocery.” We are attempting to find a weekly meal plan for our upcoming semester. The goal is to prep healthy meals for two weeks at a time in order to eliminate the decision-making process from our busy schedules. Let’s face it, after a long day of work and school, the last thing we want to think about is cooking before we start in on homework. Last night, I prepped food for three hours. Sometimes being an adult is fun. Yes, you heard me…it was fun.

In the midst of prepping and cleaning, I discovered yet another banana bunch gone bad, and instead of tossing it, I decided to whip up a loaf of banana bread. Normally I stick with an old family recipe that is super moist and delicious but I did not have sour cream so, as usual, I made do with what I had on hand.

The finished result was spectacular. Seriously. Incredibly moist and light inside, dark and shiny on top. It was perfect. And now, I am sharing it with you. I hope yours turns out to be just as tasty.

Ingredients:

5 very ripe bananas (mashed)
1 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mash up your bananas and combine in a large bowl with sugar, eggs, shortening and vanilla. Be sure to mash up the shortening well so there are little-to-no clumps. Once combined mix in remaining dry ingredients. Butter your loaf pan. Pour mix into pan. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Tip: I noticed the top of my bread starting to look pretty brown around 40 minutes. I immediately put foil over the top and it didn’t brown any more throughout the baking process. In fact, when I was finally able to pull it out of the oven, it was browned perfectly. I would recommend allowing the bread to cook for 30 minutes and then place foil over the top.

If you are worried about burning in the last 10 minutes and the bread seems so close to being done, pull it out early as it will continue to cook while the pan is hot.


Crumble Top Zucchini Bread


Working in the Milligan College public relations office has given me the opportunity to test out various recipes on the hardworking individuals in my building. Luckily, they make it easy for me as a few days ago, a bag of squash and 3 very very large zucchinis were left on the back table for whomever wanted to take them. I, of course, couldn’t pass up the opportunity and decided to try my luck at baking my first batch of zucchini bread.

After perusing 30-or-so zucchini bread recipes, and realizing I could not, in fact, choose just one, I instead decided to combine a few recipes and techniques for my very own version of zucchini bread.

The finished result was very moist and sweet (would you expect anything else?). I am in love! This recipe makes 2 loaves of bread. The zucchini was so large I only ended up using half of it to get my 3 cups worth of shredded zucchini. However, I believe 2 normal-sized zucchinis should be enough for you.

Bread Ingredients:

3 eggs
1/2 c. applesauce
1/2 c. vegetable oil
dash of nutmeg
3 cups flour
2 cups white sugar
3 cups grated zucchini
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Crumble Topping:

4 tbsp. butter (melted)
3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. brown sugar

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Grease 2 bread loaf pans. I also sprinkled flour in the bottom of mine to help keep it from sticking.

Whisk eggs until frothy. Add in sugar, vanilla, applesauce, and oil. Combine well. Add in 1/2 of the flour mixture, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Grate zucchini and add to mixture. Add remaining flour. Mix well. Pour mixture into 2 loaf pans.

Combine crumble topping ingredients well. You want the flour and sugar to kind of stick together into little granola-like clusters. Sprinkle on top of batter.

Place loafs into the oven for 60-70 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Update: I received a comment recently about difficulty getting the center of the loaf to cook through. I’ve made this recipe a few times and it was always cooked through so I’m thinking it could be my oven which tends to run a bit hot. I’d recommend testing your loaf with a toothpick and adjusting the temperature and cook time accordingly. Thanks for the feedback!

Allow to cool and enjoy!


Mini Blueberry Pies


The Fourth of July is far from my favorite holiday. Can I say that without getting into trouble? I think it has something to do with having to stay up late to enjoy fireworks that only last about 10 minutes. I have never been a night owl, and I fear that the older I get, the earlier and earlier I hit the sack.

I have many wonderful memories from the fourth. I enjoy families gathering together, the variety of BBQ smells wafting through the neighborhood, my father lighting fireworks from on top of a ladder in order to give us more height (that’s my favorite). One more thing I love about the 4th of July, bountiful blueberries. I picked fresh blueberries once and the experience somehow sold me on the fruit. Blueberries are, simply put, a fun fruit. Small, blue, sweet and tart all at the same time. They can be used in salads, pies, and drinks. So much versatility. Seeing as I have an insatiable sweet tooth, this week I opted for the traditional blueberry pie, in mini form.

mini blueberry pie

For this recipe, I simply threw in a mixture of powders and sugars hoping the proportions were right. I think you will agree, the finished result was exceptional. I also finally found the perfect ramekins for me at World Market (yes, I am a picky ramekin shopper). They’re blue and I’m in love! I was so excited to fill them with mini blueberry pies that I couldn’t even wait until the 4th.

Filling Ingredients:

1 pint fresh blueberries
1/3 c. flour
3/4 c. white sugar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. lemon
1 egg
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1/4 stick of butter

Crust Ingredients:

2 c. flour
2/3 c. shortening
7 tbsp. water
1/2 tsp. salt

Instructions:

Wash blueberries and let drip dry while you make your pie crust.

Mix flour, salt and shortening by hand. I use a fork to press the shortening into the flour to make it crumbly. Once the mixture is crumbly, add in the water 1 tbsp. at a time.

Roll out the dough and 4 circles 1-1/2 times the size of your ramekin as well as 4 circles that just fit the size of your ramekins.

In a large bowl, mix blueberries, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and lemon. Let sit for 10 minutes so the blueberry juices absorb the sugar.

Press large dough circles into the bottom of the ramekins. Scoop blueberry mixture into each dish. Cover the top of blueberries with 3-4 thin slices of butter. Cover with dough and twist edges into each other.

mini blueberry pie

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Pair with vanilla bean ice cream and enjoy!

Servings: 4 Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: 20 minutes


Frosted Banana Bars


These banana bars were absolutely delightful. I added a hint of rum to the batter and topped them off with rum frosting. Best of all, they are actually not too terrible of a calorie killer, sitting at about 130 calories per bar.

Banana Bar Ingredients:

3 tbsp. butter
1-1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/4 c. applesauce
2 or 3 mashed ripe bananas
2 tsp. rum
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt

Frosting Ingredient:

1 stick of butter (1/2 c.)
1-1.5 c. powdered sugar
2-3 tbsp. rum

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar on low with an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time. Mix in mashed ripe bananas (3 will make them more moist). Add remaining ingredients and blend well.

Pour batter into a large dish. These bars rise quite a bit. I used a 9×13. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

For the frosting, barely soften the butter and blend with powdered sugar until the sugar binds to the butter. Add rum. If the consistency looks too runny, simply add more powdered sugar until the mixture is spreadable.

Once the bars are baked, let them cool completely before cutting and frosting.

Happy baking!


Mocha Frosted Chocolate Cake


On Memorial Day, we had a few of our close friends over for a little BBQ. The evening was enjoyable, filled with food, cornhole and a backstabbing game of phase10 twist. However, the evening was also a bit solemn as we said goodbye to two of our closest friends, Adam and Leslie Bean. A fabulous couple whom we feel privileged to have known these past 6 years. Adam was recently accepted to Johns Hopkins University so they will be moving to Baltimore after spending the summer at an archeological dig in Jordan.

I have never been good at saying goodbye to those I love. I usually end up awkwardly changing the subject. To this day I cringe when I remember my response to my favorite youth pastor of all time when he and his wife told me they were moving away…

“You’re moving? Well, you sure didn’t give us much time to throw you a going away party!” This is what I really wanted to say, “But, I love you! Why are you doing this to me! You can’t go!”

As you can see, I am definitely not one for goodbyes. So, what is my secret to dealing with them now? Cake!


You can tell my degree of sadness by either the size of the cake or the amount of sugar added to it. I think the picture above should clue you in on how much we love the Beans.

This recipe is from the May issue of Real Simple magazine which had a section devoted to different cake, filling, and frosting combinations to mix and match.

This is what I came up with…

Mocha frosted double layer chocolate cake with white chocolate chips and chocolate shavings on top. If that doesn’t make saying goodbye easier, I don’t know what does.

Chocolate Cake Ingredients:

1 c. unsalted butter
3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1-1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs
1-1/2 c. milk

Chocolate Cake Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two circular pans, line with parchment paper, butter and sprinkle with cocoa powder.

Mix butter and sugar on high until fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs. On low, slowly add flour, then milk, flour, then milk, until all ingredients are mixed together. Pour batter into pans and bake until toothpick comes out clean.

I used two 9-inch round pans and baked them for 30 minutes. Let the cake cool completely before trying to remove from the pan.

Coffee Frosting Ingredients:

1 tbsp. instant coffee powder
1 tbsp. hot water
2 c. butter
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Coffee Frosting Instructions:

Combine instant coffee powder and water. Stir until powder is completely dissolved. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix butter on high until fluffy. Slowly add sugar, coffee mixture, and vanilla. Mix on low until smooth.

I ended up adding a second 1/2 batch of the coffee mixture to my icing (because I really like coffee), if you do this you must also add a little bit more powdered sugar or your icing will be too runny.


Frosting Tips:

1. Frost the top of the first layer, then stack the layers.
2. Frost the top of the cake before moving to the sides.
3. Allow the icing to firm in the fridge before adding toppings.

I hope your cake tastes as delicious as ours did. Happy baking!


Google Recipes


A guest post from a very talented individual Jack and I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the past 2 years. I love this new feature on Google. If you haven’t tried it yet, give it a shot. It is fabulous!

I am Mary Jackson, friend of Tiffany and co-worker (and friend) of Jack. I was talking with Tiffany about a blog post I was writing for the Milligan library blog that related to cooking. Tiffany suggested that it might be a good choice for her blog (which I love).

This spring Google launched a new feature, Google Recipes. I stumbled across it when I was craving lemon meringue pie. I did a regular Google search for lemon meringue pie, then realized while scanning the recipes that I didn’t have a required ingredient, cream of tartar. I went back to revise my search and what did I see:

I could now filter my results: by ingredients that I did (or did not) have, by cook time and by calories. WOW! I quickly clicked the NO box next to cream of tartar and instantly I had a new list of recipes that did not require me to make a trip to the store. The best part is you don’t have to do anything. If you type search terms into the regular Google search box and it yields results including recipes, the recipe features automatically pops up on the left hand side of the results. I love it! And the lemon meringue pie made without cream of tartar? Delicious.


Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls


One of my favorite guilty pleasures growing up included a tub of peanut butter, a jar of jelly, and a spoon.  Yes, I realize this is ridiculously unhealthy but how can you resist? Luckily, my peanut butter cravings have diminished enough for my husband to not be completely disgusted by me, however these tiny treats take me back to my love affair with peanut butter.

Ingredients:

1 lb. powdered sugar
1/2 c. butter
2 c. peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
1 package of dipping chocolate (almond bark brand works well)

Instructions:

Blend peanut butter and butter with mixer. Add powdered sugar.
If you use smooth peanut butter try adding corn flakes to the mix and taking out a little bit of powdered sugar. This gives you a more subtle crunch than you would get with crunchy peanut butter and it just happens to be my favorite way to eat peanut butter balls.

Shape dough into 1-1.5 inch balls and place on a cookie sheet.

Ok, this next step is IMPORTANT…once all the balls are rolled place the sheet in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. The peanut butter must be firm before coating with chocolate or they will fall apart.

Melt dipping chocolate in a double boiler. You can microwave if your chocolate allows but read the directions carefully.

I do not own a double boiler so instead, I put a glass bowl on top of a pot of boiling water to melt the chocolate. This works well, but be sure the two are a good fit. You want to avoid letting out steam that will get into your chocolate and cause bubbles.

Next, drop a couple of peanut butter balls into the chocolate at a time, use two spoons to move the peanut butter balls around until coated. Carefully drop onto wax paper and let cool.

I know that seems like a lot of writing to explain this process but it’s really very simple, waiting to eat the finished product is the hardest part. Enjoy!


Pecan Tarts


I made these tasty pecan tarts this weekend, recipe courtesy of momma Mary, for the Chamber Youth Leadership graduation reception at Milligan. These mini tarts are quick and easy to make, not to mention they taste phenomenal. Great for any shower or large get-together.

Ingredients:

Shell:
1/2 c. butter
3 oz. cream cheese
1 c. flour
Pecan Filling:
2 tbsp. butter
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 c. chopped pecans

Instructions:

Starting with the shell, blend butter and cream cheese. Once blended, add flour and mix. Dough will be crumbly.

Mix dough into 1.5 inch balls and place each in muffin slots on a mini muffin pan.

Use a mini-tart shaper to press down in the middle of the dough, pushing the dough up along the sides of the pan.

If you do not have a tart shaper, like me, use the end of another tool from your vast array of cooking utensils. I used the blunt end of a pizza cutter.

I also flattened out the edges of my dough, pressing them into the side of the pan so there would be more room for filling.

Now to the filling…

Mix all filling ingredients except the pecans with a blender.

Once ingredients are combined, pour in 1 c. of chopped pecans and mix with a spoon.

Now, fill your tart shells with the filling. Fill only to the top edge of the shell.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes and voila! Mini pecan pies.

A few tips:

  1. You do not need to grease or spray your muffin pan prior to filling with dough. The butter in the dough keeps it from sticking.
  2. If you have trouble getting the pies out of the pan, use a thin piece of cardboard or a thick piece of paper to slide along the edges and it will pop right out.
  3. Dust the end of your dough-pressing tool with flour to keep it from sticking.
  4. Although small, these are fairly rich so you really do not need to make them any bigger than mini-muffin size.

Happy baking!


My First Catering Gig


I love summer and I love Saturdays and today is both (at least summer break, even if the weather is still spring). I am currently sitting at my kitchen table, cookbooks haphazardly strewn about, coffee in hand, laptop playing Feist, and way too many baking supplies crowding the already crowded counter tops.

I always seem to have great expectations for my summers. You would think a break from all the classes and studying that normally consume my days would free up some time, however, that does not seem to be the case so far.

My list of things to do looks something like this:

  1. finish Avynlea’s blanket before she arrives: Due date T-one month
  2. cut a sew 50 yards of fabric into table runners for Kelly’s wedding
  3. finish at least 1 of the 3 wardrobe transformation projects originally intended for the blog 2 months ago
  4. read the book Ellyn sent me
  5. practice my violin so I continue to shame my instructor
  6. fix the curtains in my kitchen
  7. make curtains for the spare room instead of the sloppy draped fabric that’s been there for 2 years now
  8. finish my picnic quilt

The list goes on, but I think that gives you a good idea. Back to the point of this post…my boss asked if I would be interested in catering this Chamber Youth Leadership graduation ceremony on Monday. Because I love to bake, and can’t seem to turn down a challenge, I eagerly agreed. So, this weekend, my list will have to wait.

Here’s what I am making:

  • red velvet cake cookies with powdered sugar coating
  • shortbread cookies with cream cheese frosting, sprinkled with cocoa powder
  • pecan tassies (mini pecan pies)
  • chocolate covered peanut butter balls
  • homemade cheesecake layered brownies
  • sparkling pineapple/orange punch

So far this morning I have made red velvet cookies and pecan tassies. Included are a few pictures. You can find the red velvet cookie recipes here. The shortbread is basically the same recipes as my Rummy Shortbread Cookies, minus the rum. I know, big disappointed sigh from my readers, but high school students and parents, I figured it’s better to not chance anyone being offended.

I stole the pecan tassie and the peanut butter ball recipes from my mom-in-law. Thanks mom!

I am freezing the juices from my punch into two flower-shaped rings for the punch bowls and putting my home-grown mint leaves into the mix. I think it will turn out very nicely (will post a picture here once it is frozen so keep checking back). I’ll be sure to post the pecan tassie and peanut butter ball recipes shortly for you all when my oven isn’t beeping at me. Have you ever catered an event for 75-100 individuals? Feel free to leave any tips you may have. Wish me luck!


Amaretto-Coconut Pound Cake


Took out my good ol’ Betty Crocker cookbook the other night and threw together a combination of recipes that were oh so tasty. One part pound cake. One part coconut glaze.

Pound Cake Ingredients:

2 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. butter
2 tbsp amaretto (my substitute for vanilla)
5 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 c. evaporated milk
1/4 c. coconut flakes (only if you are also making the coconut topping)

Instructions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bundt cake pan with shortening. Beat sugar, butter, vanilla, and eggs with electric mixer on low for 30 seconds. Beat on high for 5 minutes.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a second bowl. Beat flour mixture into sugar mixture on low speed alternating with evaporated milk. Add coconut. Pour mixture into pan.

Bake for 50 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Or add a topping of choice, like this…

Amaretto Coconut Glaze Ingredients:

1 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter
1 c. evaporated milk
1 tbsp amaretto (my substitute for vanilla)
3 egg yolks
1 1/3 c. coconut flakes

Mix all ingredients minus coconut in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat for about 14 minutes, until consistency is semi-thick (like pureed soup). Add coconut flakes. Remove from heat and let cool about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally until consistency is spreadable.

Apply liberally to top of cake and enjoy!


Rummy Shortbread Cookies


I made these cookies for our New Year’s Eve get together this year and they were a hit. The cookie is a simple shortbread recipe that takes about 10 minutes to throw together and the frosting was a combination of ideas from Linda (Aunt Willies Wildflowers) and the Pioneer Woman. You can see her original hard sauce recipe here.

I also made these more recently for a catering event and added chocolate shavings to the top, making the shortbread look much more elegant.

Cookie Ingredients:
2 c. butter
4 c. flour
1 c. white sugar
2-3 tsp. vanilla extract (I always put more vanilla)

Cookie Prep:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Soften the butter. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla. Add flour. Mix well. Place dough balls onto a non-stick sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Some recipes have you cook these longer but they tend to harden once you pull them out of the oven so I like to pull mine out early so they are still somewhat soft.

The frosting combines Linda’s powdered sugar frosting and the Pioneer Woman’s idea to add liquor to the mix, she uses whiskey, I went for rum.

Frosting Ingredients:

1 stick of butter
1-1.5 c. powdered sugar
2-3 tbsp rum

Frosting Prep:

Barely soften the butter and mix it around in the bowl. Add in the powdered sugar. I don’t normally measure this out. When Linda makes her frosting she uses more of a pour and stir, pour and stir effort until you get the consistency you want to frost with. Once that is all mixed together, add in the rum. This is really to taste so you might as well start out slow and taste as you go until you are satisfied.

Before you frost the cookies make sure they are cool. If the cookies are not completely cool you will have runny rum sauce all over the place.

Once cool, frost the cookies. My last addition to these cookies was to add a dusting of cocoa powder, really yummy addition. You could also try coffee grounds, brown sugar, chocolate shavings, the possibilities are endless.


Key Lime Pie


This is an extremely simple pie to make and one that I wish I would have added cool whip and a few shavings of lime on top for the picture, but you’ll all do better right?

Ingredients:

5 beaten egg yolks
1/2 c. key lime juice
1 (14 oz) can of sweetened condensed milk
6 tbsp butter
1/3 c. white sugar
1-1/2 c. finely ground graham cracker crumbs

Directions:

Crust:
Combine melted butter, sugar and crumbs until well-mixed. Press mixture into 8- or 9-inch pan. Bake shell at 375 degrees for 5-7 minutes to harden.

Filling:
Combine lime juice, yolks, and milk. Mix well and pour into crust. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Allow to cool and top with cool whip and graded lime rind.