Saturday, December 21, 2013

Peppermint Bark

Ok, here's another easy one, because I am all about simplifying this Christmas or something like that.  Peppermint bark.  The hardest thing you have to do is melt chocolate.  But we already learned how to do that.  Oh, and you get to smash things with your rolling pin, which in my book is always top notch.

Peppermint Bark

  • 1- 12 ounce bag chocolate chips (I like Ghiradelli 60%, but that's just me)
  • 1- 12 ounce bag white chocolate chips
  • 5-6 candycanes
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract or a few drops peppermint oil (oil is much stronger than extract)
Melt dark chocolate.  Once melted, pour into a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Stick in the fridge for a few minutes to harden.

Take candy canes out of their wrappers.  Put them in a large plastic bag.  Wrap the bag in a kitchen towel.  Take rolling pin and smash the daylights out of the candy canes.  I guess you could use a food processor to chop them up if you were feeling civilized, but that's not really my style.

Melt the white chocolate.  Stir in peppermint extract or oil.  Spread over top of the now hardened dark chocolate.  Sprinkle with candy cane shards.  Stick back in the fridge for 30 minutes or so to harden.  Remove from fridge and break into pieces.  Eat.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Treats Roundup

Christmas is coming, the goose it getting fat...or whatever.  I have been a blog slacker.  But here are some past treats if you are looking for something wonderful to create in the kitchen.  I just hope to get my bathrooms cleaned before my in-laws arrive...
Chocolate Covered Cherries
Butter Cookies
Magic Cookie Bars
Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies
Sugar Cookies


Monday, December 2, 2013

Homemade Food Gifts: Vanilla Infused Sugar

Well shoot, November sure went by in a hurry.  Now all of the sudden it's December and we are in the countdown to Christmas.  The gloves are off, it is on.  Baking season is in full swing.  Maybe this year you feel like giving some homemade food gifts.  Good.  People like that.  Here's an easy one to start.  In the realm of homemade food gifts, there isn't one one much easier that this unless it's homemade vanilla, which requires about the same amount of effort. (Which you should make now, by the way, because it takes a couple weeks of chill time).

However, even though it's almost too easy, it's a wonderful homemade food gift.  A spoonful of vanilla sugar really ups the delicious factor in your morning coffee and sprinkling the coarse granules on top of a pie makes it positively sparkle.  My family was gifted a jar of vanilla sugar one Christmas and it sat in our cupboard for eons, being preciously rationed out.  Often, I would open the jar just to smell it.

Vanilla Infused Sugar

  • 2 cups raw sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans ( I buy mine here from Amazon)

Split vanilla beans lengthwise.  Put in pint jar.  Fill jar with raw sugar.  Close jar.  Put a bow on it.  Give to someone you love or keep it for yourself in which case the bow is not strictly necessary.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cake Decorating Basics: How To Color Fondant

You can buy fondant in many different ways: large tubs, small packages, pure white, colored, you can make your own, whatever strikes your fancy.  I typically will buy or make my fondant white and color it for whatever project I am working on.  Coloring fondant is easy, but takes a little bit of time and muscle power, depending on how dark the color needs to be.

First things first, gather your materials.  You will need: the amount of fondant you desire to color, gel food coloring, and toothpicks (if you don't have squeeze bottle food coloring).  Why gel food coloring?  It doesn't add much water to the system so your fondant won't get overly sticky.  You may also want rubber gloves if you are making a really dark color.  I have stained hands for a few days on multiple occasions.

Next, using the toothpick, dab a small amount of food coloring into the middle of the fondant ball.  Pick up the ball and stretch fondant from the bottom of the ball over food coloring.  Keep stretching the fondant in various directions.

Eventually, your fondant will start looking streaked like the bottom left photo.  If a marbled look is what you are going for, stop here.  If you are looking for a more unified color keep stretching and pulling until everything is the same color like the bottom right photo.

I was coloring this fondant for the sock monkey cake topper, so this brown did not end up being dark enough.  I had to repeat the above steps until I achieved the darker brown I was looking for.  Be careful when adding more color, especially right away because gel food coloring gets darker with time.  

If you do add too much, simply knead in some uncolored fondant to lighten it up.  But, speaking from experience, it is easier to make it darker than to make it lighter.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Apple Walnut Rice Pudding

Rice pudding is like your favorite pair of sweatpants.  It isn't pretty, but so comfortable.  Rice pudding is the kind of dessert you make when the weather is rainy and you just want to curl up, watch a movie and eat something sweet.  This apple walnut version makes the whole house smell like apple pie, without the work of apple pie.  And if you have some leftover rice lurking around the fridge-bonus-you are halfway there.

Apple Walnut Rice Pudding

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups milk, lukewarm (I microwave mine for about a minute)
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 cup chopped apples (about 1 large apple)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2-1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
In a 1 quart casserole dish, beat eggs with a whisk.  Add in sugar and beat to combine.  Slowly add in the milk.  Whisk to combine.  Switch utensils-grab a spoon.  Stir in nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Add in the rice.  Finally, mix in the apples and walnuts.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Now we are making a custard here, so get out a cake pan that is bigger then your casserole dish.  Add 1 inch of water to the bottom.  Place casserole dish in the cake pan.  Bake, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fondant Sock Monkey Cake Topper

My sweet and wonderful friends are expecting their first baby just after the New Year.  Mandy had been my best friend for longer than she hasn't and I've known her husband for almost the same amount of time.  I am so excited that are welcoming an addition to their family!

Which is why when her sister asked me to make a sock monkey cake topper for her shower cake, I wholeheartedly agreed.  The cake was mainly meant to be decorative, a small 6 inch cake.  Her sister, also a cake decorator, was doing the cupcakes.

I meant to have a tutorial for you, but when I build fondant critters, it's a bit of trial and error and I stopped taking pictures about halfway through which is pretty useless to you.

These things I can tell you:

  • I used Wilton fondant for the brown and white portions, coloring my some of the fondant brown. 
  • I bought red Fondarific fondant for the red portions, mostly because I hate dying fondant red-takes forever.  
  • His eyes are mini chocolate chips and his mouth is drawn on with a fine tip food writer.  
  • I cut out the dots for his cap with the tip end of my Wilton #5 piping tip.  
  • He's all stuck together with about a million toothpicks.  I used to use spaghetti instead of toothpicks when making fondant animals to make them totally edible, but nobody eats the fondant and this guy was going for a four hour car ride.

Friday, November 1, 2013

How To Melt Chocolate In The Microwave

Ok guys, November 1st.  In my mind, it's the official kick off of baking season.  Sure, we dabbled with a few things in October, some pumpkin bread and monkey muffins to help get us in the mood, but now, now it gets serious.

This is the time of year when even those of us who never bake a thing feel the need to be Julia Child in the kitchen for the holidays.  Or if you are like me, it's the time of year I crack out recipes I only make during the holiday season and can't remember how the heck that recipe is supposed to go.  So I burn a couple pans of fudge and make some soggy peanut brittle trying to remember.

So we are going back to the basics for a few things.  I realized in many of my recipes that require melting chocolate, I tell you to follow the directions on the back of the package and leave it at that.  But then I watched someone who totally should have know better shove a bowl of chocolate in the microwave for 2 minutes straight and wonder why it was burned.  And let me tell you what, you have not smelled stink until you have burned chocolate in your microwave.

This tutorial is about melting candy coating chocolate.  Like candy melts, chocolate chips, and the almond bark you see in stores this time of year.  NOT melting chocolate bars which need to be tempered.  We are not there yet.  I am not there yet.  These are all chocolate products that contain shortening so they do not require tempering.

I like to use candy melts when dipping, it dries quickly and hard unlike chocolate chips which will not get hard.  They will dry but remain sticky and melty to the touch.

How To Melt Chocolate In The Microwave

  1. Dump candy melts in a heat proof bowl.  I think candy melts are a little on the thick side so I add in a teaspoon of shortening for each package of candy melts.  The shortening thins out the chocolate making it easier to dip.  Don't be squeamish about the shortening, we're talking candy melts here, they are already over processed and unhealthy beyond control.  Don't eat them every day.
  2. Put bowl in the microwave and microwave for 30 seconds.  NO LONGER!  
  3. Get the bowl out and stir.  It won't look like anything happened and you will be tempted to go longer next time because you find this process tedious.  DON'T DO IT!
  4. Put the bowl back in the microwave and microwave for another 30 seconds.  Get the bowl out and stir again. 
  5. Keep doing this until the chocolate is melted.  There will be a point when it is almost melted, just a few little lumps.  Try and stir it smooth at this point.  I have noticed with the candy melts it is possible to over heat it and then the chocolate gets streaky as it dries.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Magic Cookie Bars

The best thing that my mother-in-law gave me was my husband.  He is kind and funny.  He challenges me and encourages me.  I don't know what I would be without him.  Today, we have been married 7 wonderful years and I am so lucky to have him.

Probably the second best thing my mother-in-law ever gave me was the recipe for these cookie bars.  They are easy to make and the chocolate/coconut combination is to die for.  Whenever I am looking for an easy crowd pleaser, this is one I turn to.

Magic Cookie Bars from Suzanne Goodell

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 cups walnut halves, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips (or 1-12 ounce package)
  • 3 cups shredded coconut
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
Pour melted butter into a 9 x 13 pan.  Sprinkle in the graham cracker crumbs over the melted butter.   Press the graham cracker crumb/butter mixture into the bottom of the pan to form a crust.  Sprinkle walnut pieces onto the crust.  Next, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the walnuts.  Then sprinkle the coconut over the chocolate chips.  Open can of sweetened condensed milk, pour over the coconut, covering as much of the coconut as possible.  The parts of the coconut without the sweetened condensed milk coating tend to burn.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Allow to cool.  It takes quite a bit of time to properly cool, however these are delightful melty and a little bit warm.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Alfajores (Dulce De Leche Cookies)

Look at this hot mess.  There is dulce de leche running wild all over my alfajores.  I almost totally scrapped this project-maybe stretched into a Test Kitchen Tuesday fiasco because these babies are MESSY.

But, and it's a big but, then I tasted one and oh man, these buttery shortbread cookies filled with sweet caramel were AMAZING.

So, I know they look crazy, but they taste so so good.  Maybe use a little bit less dulce de leche and definitely wait until the cookies are cool to put the caramel in the middle.

Alfajores adapted from

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • Dulce de Leche

Take all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, and sugar for a spin in the food processor.  This eliminates your need to sift.  Cut up the butter into chunks and whip in the food processor while it's running.  Process until dough comes together.  Remove from food processor, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.

Remove from refrigerator.  Dust work surface with flour and roll dough out about 1/8 inch thick.  Cut out cookies.  I used a pumpkin cutter, you can use a round cutter or really whatever you feel like.  Try to make sure you have an even amount of cookies because we are making sandwiches.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.  Spread the inside of one cookie with dulce de leche and place another cookie on top.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Test Kitchen Tuesday-Pumpkin Waffles

So, I did that thing that you are never supposed to do in science and I took a recipe I have never made before and right off the bat changed 2 major parts and then it didn't work right and now I have no idea what part wasn't quite right.  But they look pretty, right?

I had run out of eggs, but I have done some reading about using flaxseed meal and water to make "flax eggs."  And I was impatient so I didn't even make them right because I didn't grind my own flaxseed meal and I certainly didn't let them sit overnight.  Also, given that it is October, I felt like of course these waffles should have pumpkin in them as well.  Ah, the breakfast hunger beast was rearing its ugly impatient head.

Well, these waffles turned out to be heavy and just kind of meh.  I can't say they tasted bad-especially dressed with whipped cream and syrup but they definitely leave something to be desired.  So now, back to the drawing board.  Probably flax eggs aren't really the right thing for this recipe but it would be helpful if I made them right.  Also trying the original recipe first before making so many changes.

Any suggestions for improvement are welcome.

Mediocre Pumpkin Waffles

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 2 sticks butter, melted
  • 1 cup pumpkin
  • 1 tablespoons flaxseed meal
  • 9 tablespoons water

Mix together flaxseed meal and water and allow to sit for 10 minutes.  In a large mixing bowl, stir together flours, sugar and spices.  Add in pumpkin, butter, and flax "eggs".  Batter will be thick.  Pour into hot greased waffle iron.  Cook until done.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Mummy Oreos

Last year it was Nutter Butter Ghosts.  This year, Oreo Mummys.  They're easy, they're cute and best of all, delicious.

Mummy Oreos

  • 1 package Oreos
  • 2 packages Candy Melts
  • Candy eyes

Melt candy melts according to package directions.  Plop Oreos in the melted white chocolate place on wax paper.  After dipping 5-6 Oreos, place candy eyes on top of the dipped cookies.  Once all of the cookies are dipped, take remaining white chocolate and fill a piping bag or zip top bag.  Snip the very tip off the piping bag/baggie and zig zag the white chocolate over the dipped cookies.  Allow to dry.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Honey Sweetened Peach Chutney

Confession time: I made this chutney weeks ago but have been afraid to try it.  I originally made the recipe because I thought my husband would love it, but I was afraid I would hate it.  Dave has been asking me why I hadn't tried it and I had to admit my fear.  He started laughing of course!  How silly to be afraid of food, especially one I had made!

As it turns out, this chutney is lovely.  And even more lovely with some soft goat cheese spread underneath it on a thick slab of crusty bread, this has become my new PB & J.  Equal parts sweet and tangy, it makes your taste buds do summersaults but in a good way.

Jelly jars full would make an excellent Christmas gift, if you can keep it that long.  That had been my original plan, but I'm not sure that I will have any left.  I pretty much exactly followed Marisa's recipe exactly so you should go over there to get it.  She also has great advice about how skin the peaches.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

And Sometimes It Works...Dulce De Leche in the Crockpot

A few months ago, I wrote a post about how Pinterest successfully sucks up my time but often executing the recipes turns out to be a total disaster.  Well, I had seen Crockpot Dulce De Leche floating around for a long time and just never got around to trying it.

This past Saturday, however, I had a little extra time around the house so I peeled the wrapper off a can of sweetened and condensed milk and threw it in the crockpot on low and 8 hours later when I opened the can I had thick creamy beautiful caramel.  I am in love.  It was hard to resist not eating this straight with a spoon from the can.  So hard, in fact, that I did eat some straight from the can.  It would be dreamy over some ice cream or as a fruit dip.

Dulce De Leche in a Crockpot

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk

Peel label off can of sweetened condensed milk.  Put in crockpot.  Fill crockpot with water so that can is submerged.  Turn crockpot heat to low and wait 8 hours.  Turn off crockpot.  Allow to cool.  I actually turned off my crockpot and left it set overnight to cool.  You do not want hot caramel burning your face.  If we wanted that, we could have cooked it on the stove.   Remove can from water, open and enjoy.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Happy 1 Month Birthday Lotus!

My darling baby niece turned 1 month old on Saturday, so of course I had to bake her a cake.  Her 3 year old brother did her a favor and blew out the candle.  And then had us sing happy birthday to him and blew out another candle.  Because we don't spoil him or anything.

Orange Buttercream

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 pounds powdered sugar
  • 5 drops orange oil (or about 1 teaspoon orange extract)
  • 5-7 tablespoons water

Beat together butter, salt, and orange oil.  Slowly beat in powdered sugar.  Add in water one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.  Frost cake.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Monkey Muffins

My goal with these muffins was to create something that tasted like a cinnamon roll but was individually portioned.  And then I realized that cinnamon rolls are already individually portioned...

So yeah, these taste like an inside out cinnamon roll that you can easily pull apart.  So easily that you can eat about 3 while debating with your husband about how much couch will actually fit into your living room (and not really sharing with him).

Monkey Muffins

makes 12-15 muffins


2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup lukewarm milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour


1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl, combine: milk, water, sugar, butter and yeast.  Stir to combine.  Add in egg and whole wheat flour.  Stir in all purpose flour.  Dough will be thick.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic about 7 minutes.  Alternatively, knead with the dough hook on your stand mixer for about 5 minutes.  Cover and allow to raise for about an hour.

Prepare a muffin tin (possibly 2) with muffin wrappers.  If you are not going to use muffin wrappers, grease the cups very well.  Once the dough is risen, turn out onto a floured surface and knead for a minute or two.  In a small bowl, melt butter for the topping.  In another small bowl, stir together sugar and cinnamon for the topping.

Tear off a small ball of dough and roll it in the melted butter, then in the cinnamon and sugar.  Put three sugar/cinnamon covered balls into each muffin cup.  Repeat until all the dough is used.

Cover with a clean towel and allow to raise for another hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake muffins for 18-20 minutes.  Allow to cool and enjoy.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Caramel Apple Cider

So my Target has a Starbucks.  I don't know if all Targets do, but mine does and every time I'm finished overspending at Target I am always temped by the smell of coffee that costs too much.  I gave up drinking regular coffee a couple years ago for health reasons, but that doesn't detour me from the decaffeinated versions of all their delicious beverages.  Not being a huge fan of the pumpkin spice latte (I know, blasphemy) I often turn to their caramel apple cider dink in the fall.

 One day, while watching my barista make said carmel apple drink, I had a moment of realization that I could recreate this at home for a lot less per cup.  Especially given that this is that time of year when I still have left over ice cream toppings in my fridge because it was just summer like three minutes ago.

I have been making my Caramel Apple Cider with store bought caramel sauce and Redi Whip cause that is what I had in the fridge but if you are feeling especially sassy, this caramel sauce would be really dreamy mixed up in some apple cider.

Caramel Apple Cider

makes 1 serving

  • Apple Cider-this year I got some here, but in the past I have gotten great cider here and here
  • Caramel Sauce-storebought or homemade
  • Whipped Cream

Pour apple cider in a microwave safe mug.  Heat for a minute to a minute and thirty seconds.  Drizzle in a scoop on caramel sauce.  Top with whipped cream and more caramel sauce.  Feel awesome cause you didn't spend $4 at Starbucks for this drink.

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