December 21, 2011

M & M Cookies - Christmas Style

M & M cookies are Sweetie's favorite cookie, so of course, I just had to make these for him.  =)  I made them this fall with the fall colored M & M's but didn't have a chance to take a picture of them.  So, here we are with Christmas colored M & M's.  I just love how you can make the same cookie recipe but they look different with different colored M & M's.  For me, it's the little things in life.  =)  Luckily, the cookies taste delicious every time regardless of the M & M color.

I love to make the cookie dough, portion the cookies out on a cookie sheet, freeze, and store in a ziploc bag (in the freezer).  It is a super convenient way to have warm cookies available at anytime in about 15 minutes flat!

I'm pretty sure this will be my last post of 2011.  ( I didn't get as many posts in as I had hoped for.)  I think my new year's resolution should be to make my blog bigger and better in 2012!  It sounds doable and achievable!

Merry Christmas!

M & M Cookies

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup M & M's

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix brown sugar, sugar, eggs, shortening, and vanilla thoroughly.  Add flour, baking soda, and salt to creamed mixture.  Blend well.  Add 3/4 cup M & M candies.

Portion out some dough using a cookie scoop.  Using your hands, roll into a small ball and place on a cookie sheet.  Slightly push a few candies on top of each dough ball with remaining candies.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes.  (13-15 minutes if taken straight from the freezer).

Yield - 3 Dozen

Hat Tip - Beantown Baker

December 17, 2011

Roasted Olives

Do you like olives?  I don't. Well I thought I didn't until I tried these roasted olives at Williams Sonoma.  A friend and I went to a class/dinner at Williams Sonoma, we had the olives as an appetizer.  My friend and I both thought we didn't like olives, until I was brave and ate one.  I told her they don't taste like olives, you should try one.  She said you are right.  They are delicious!  Roasting the olives enhances the brininess of the olives, then with the addition of rosemary, orange zest, and pepper flakes it is a dangerously, delicious combination. 

Roasted Olives

3 cups assorted black and green olives
2 rosemary sprigs, cut in half
Zest of 1 orange, cut into long, thin strips
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes
Salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a bowl, combine olives, rosemary, orange zest, olive oil, chili flakes and salt, toss to coat.  Transfer the olive mixture to a small tapas pan and bake until the olives are warmed through, about 10 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4

Hat Tip - Williams-Sonoma

December 9, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Sweeties

This recipe was emailed to me one day from  The name caught my eye, so I clicked on the link.  They were very cute and sweet.  I decided to make them for our recent holiday party.  They were a hit!  I didn't run out because the recipe is supposed to make five dozen sweeties, but I got four dozen, which is a lot for about 15 people to eat with all the other food we had.  Anyway, I shared some with my co-workers and friends.  They loved them!!  I've been asked just about everyday "when can I get the recipe for those peanut butter balls?"  I had to put a rush on this post, so everyone could have the recipe.  =)

The sweeties are very similar to a buckeye with the addition of a pretzel.  They were super easy to make and there wasn't any cooking involved.  The recipe has to be done in stages, so it takes a bit of time for them to chill, but it is worth the wait.  It's also a very kid friendly recipe.  I enlisted the help of my nephew when it was time to dip them in chocolate.  He was a great helper! 

Chocolate Peanut Sweeties

1 cup peanut butter*
1/2 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
3 cups confectioners' sugar
5 dozen miniature pretzel twists
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

In a mixing bowl, beat peanut butter and butter until smooth.  Beat in confectioners' sugar until combined.

Shape into 1-inch balls; press one on each pretzel.  Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets.  Refrigerate until peanut butter mixture is firm, about 1 hour.

In a microwave-safe bowl or heavy saucepan, melt chocolate chips and oil.

Dip the peanut butter ball into the chocolate.  Return to baking sheet, pretzel side down.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.  Store in the refrigerator. 

*Reduced-fat or generic-brand peanut butter is not recommended for use in this recipe.

Yield - 5 dozen

Hat Tip -

December 4, 2011

Coconut-Cardamom Macaroons

Holiday baking is on!

We had a holiday party over the weekend and I made quiet a few things for the party.  Coconut-Cardamom Macaroons is the first of several recipes that I will be sharing.  I wish I could share all the the things I made for the party but a few of them disappeared before the end of the night, which is a good thing until you need a picture to go with a recipe for a blog.  =)  These macaroons disappeared also but I was able to snap a picture of them before the party.  I chose to make these for two reasons.  One, they could be made ahead (I love make ahead stuff), and two, they were very easy to make.  Just a few ingredients into a bowl and then bake.  Awesome!

Like I said, they were a huge hit!  I love when my baked goods are a hit.  =)  I was able to eat one of the macaroons right after I baked them.  They were tasty!

Coconut-Cardamom Macaroons

2 large egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/2 cups flaked sweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Place egg whites in a medium bowl; lightly beat with a whisk.  Add sugar, vanilla, salt, and cardamom; stir well with a whisk until foamy.  Add coconut; toss well to combine.  Loosely pack coconut mixture into a 1-tablespoon measuring spoon.  Turn out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Spoon remaining coconut mixture by tablespoonfuls onto prepared pan to form 20 mounds.  Bake at 325 degrees for 23 minutes or until golden all over.  Cool on pan 3 minutes; cool completely on a wire rack.

Yield - 20 macaroons

The macaroons can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Hat Tip - Cooking Light December 2011, page 108

November 8, 2011

Buttermilk Banana Muffins

Well, I've done it again.  Life has gotten in the way of my blog.  No excuses, I'm back and ready for holiday baking.  For now, on to the muffins.

Last week, I bought some bananas with good intentions of eating them.  My best laid plans again didn't work out for me.  So, I decided to make banana bread.  I started looking online for a recipe and came across this recipe from two peas & their pod.  I was really excited to make banana bread with buttermilk.  I don't drink buttermilk, but I like to make things with it.  The smell of buttermilk reminds me of my grandmother and aunt's buttermilk biscuits.  They were so delicious!  Anyway, back to the muffins.  They are yummy and easy to make!  The original recipe was for banana bread, but mentioned muffins, so I went that route.  It was a good choice.  =)

Buttermilk Banana Muffins

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed bananas (I used 3)
4 tablespoons buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda

Grease and flour a muffin pan (or whatever size pan you like).  A 9 x 5 loaf pan would work well, too.  Set pan aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together.  Add eggs, mashed bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla extract, mix until well combined.

Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.  Mix until well combined.  Divide batter into prepared pans and bake at 350 degrees for 18 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Let muffins cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove muffins from the pan, cool completely on wire rack. 

Yield - 12 muffins

Hat Tip - two peas & their pod

July 31, 2011

Beet Hummus

To beet or not to beet, that is the question.

I'm not going to lie, I'm not really a fan of beets.  When we got them in our CSA box, I felt like they were just going to go to waste.  I googled beet recipes, and found beet hummus.  The beets were saved from the compost bin!

The hummus was delicious!  It was a little sweet with cumin coming through.  We ate it with pita chips and on crostini with goat cheese.  I highly recommend making beet hummus.

The only difficult part of the recipe was peeling the beets, I would recommend using gloves, so you don't end up with beet colored hands.  :)

Beet Hummus

1/2 pound beets (about 4 medium sized beets), scrubbed clean, cooked, peeled, cubed*
2 tablespoons tahini sesame seed paste
5 tablespoons lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
Generous pinch of sea salt or Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and pulse until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings and ingredients as desired.

Chill and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for longer storage.

Eat with pita chips, or with sliced cucumber or celery, or crostini with goat cheese and shaved mint.

Makes 2 cups.

*To cook the beets, cut off any tops, scrub the roots clean, put them in a covered dish with about 1/4 inch of water in a 375 degree oven, and cook until easily penetrated with a knife or fork.  Alternatively, cover with water in a saucepan and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes.  Peel once they have cooled.

Hat Tip -

July 22, 2011

Tuscan Kale Chips

When life gives you kale, make chips!

This is our first year having a CSA.  We get an email on Monday about what will be in our share for the week.  Mondays have started feeling like Christmas morning for me.  I can't wait for the email to come to my inbox to see what lovely goodies we will get.  :)  We have a medium share, but at times we have a bit more than the two of us can eat before the veggies go bad.  We got tuscan kale a few weeks ago.  I wasn't sure what to make with it so I googled tuscan kale.  Tuscan kale chips came up.  I was very intrigued by veggie chips.  I read the recipe and it was super simple.  I made the chips asap. 

After reading some reviews on Epicurious about the spices, I decided to add garlic salt to the kale instead of just regular salt.  It was a good choice.  They were supper yummy!  I almost felt like I was eating real (potato) chips, except these were very thin and green.  :) 

Tuscan Kale Chips

12 large Tuscan Kale leaves, rinsed, dried, cut lengthwise in half, center ribs and stems removed (I cut  mine into bite size pieces)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Toss kale with oil in a large bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Arrange leaves in a single layer on 2 large baking sheets.  Bake until crisp, about 30 minutes for flat leaves and up to 33 minutes for wrinkled leaves.  Transfer leaves to rack to cool.

Hat Tip -

July 11, 2011

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes

A hobby of mine is looking at recipes online, in magazines, and of course cookbooks.  Sometimes I even mark the really good looking recipes with post it flags, but I usually end up with more pages that have flags than those that do not.  :)  I have been eying this cupcake recipe from Cooks Illustrated for quite awhile and I finally found a good reason to make it.  I made these cupcakes for a small neighborhood get together.  They were a huge hit!

These cupcakes are very rich, even without the ganache filling.  The cupcakes have bittersweet chocolate, cocoa powder, and coffee in them.  These are not for your average, ho hum, chocolate fan, you need to be an "ultimate" chocolate fan.  Don't get me wrong, these are delicious cupcakes, but one at a time is enough for me.  I would like to make these again with the ganache filling, just to see the triple chocolate threat from the ganache, chocolate cake, and chocolate frosting.

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache Filling

Ganache Filling - 

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine*
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar

Chocolate Cupcakes -

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine*
1/3 cup (1 ounce) Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 cup hot coffee
3/4 cup (4 1/8 ounce) bread flour
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounce) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ganache Filling - Place chocolate, cream, and confectioner's sugar in a medium microwave-safe bowl.  Heat in microwave on high power until mixture is warm to touch, 20 to 30 seconds.  Whisk until smooth; transfer bowl to refrigerator and let stand until just chilled, no longer than 30 minutes.

Cupcakes - Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line standard-size muffin pan with baking-cup liners.  Place chocolate and cocoa in medium bowl.  Pour hot coffee over mixture and whisk until smooth.  Set in refrigerator to cool completely, about 20 minutes.  Whisk flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

Whisk oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla into cooled chocolate-cocoa mixture until smooth.  Add flour mixture and whisk until smooth.

Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups.  Place one slightly rounded teaspoon ganache filling on top of each cupcake.  Bake until cupcakes are set and just firm to the touch, 17 to 19 minutes.  Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.  Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack.  Cool to room temperature before frosting, about 1 hour.

To Frost - Mound 2 to 3 tablespoons frosting on center of each cupcake.  Using small icing spatula or butter knife, spread frosting to edge of cupcake, leaving slight mound in center. 

Yield - 12 Cupcakes

*Use a high quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate for this recipe.  The ganache filling is highly recommended, but can be omitted for a more traditional cupcake.  The cupcakes can be made up to 24 hours in advance and stored unfrosted in an airtight container.   

Creamy Chocolate Frosting

1/3 cup (2 1/3 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
pinch table salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled*
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine sugar, egg whites, and salt in bowl of stand mixer; place bowl over pan of simmering water.  Whisking gently but constantly, heat mixture until slightly thickened, foamy, and registers 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 2-3 minutes.

Place bowl in stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment.  Beat mixture on medium speed until consistency of shaving cream and slightly cooled, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add butter, 1 piece at a time, until smooth and creamy.  (Frosting may look curdled after half of butter has been added; it will smooth with additional butter.)  Once all butter is added, add cooled melted chocolate and vanilla; mix until combined.  Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light, fluffy, and thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds, scraping beater and sides of bowl with rubber spatula as necessary.

Yield - About 2 1/4 cups

*Cool the chocolate to between 85 and 100 degrees before adding it to the frosting.  If the frosting seems to soft after adding the chocolate, chill it briefly in the refrigerator and then rewhip it until creamy.  The frosting can be made up to 24 hours in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container.  When ready to frost, place frosting in a microwave-safe container and warm briefly on high power until just slightly softened, 5 to 10 seconds.  Once warmed, stir until creamy. 

Hat Tip - Cook's Illustrated

July 3, 2011

Vanilla Granola

Vanilla granola with yogurt, strawberries, and blueberries - a healthy, festive 4th of July snack.  :)  

I have made another granola recipe, but I like this one better.  This one smells like cookies as it bakes, because of the brown sugar and honey in it.  It tastes like a yummy oatmeal cookie in a bowl.  The brown sugar gives the granola such a rich, deep flavor; it is delicious!  It goes really well with yogurt and fruit or milk.  I enjoy it either way. 

The recipe calls for 1/3 cup oil, I reduced it to 1/4 cup to make it a little more figure friendly.  :)  It turned out great with the reduction of oil.  The granola doesn't get crunchy in the oven, it gets crunchy as it cools.  

Happy 4th of July!

Vanilla-Scented Granola

4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup golden brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with foil.

Mix oats, walnuts, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Combine oil, honey, and sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.  Pour hot liquid over oat mixture; stir well.  Using hands, toss mixture until thoroughly mixed.  

Spread granola on prepared baking sheet.  Bake until golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.  Transfer sheet to rack; cool granola completely.  

July 2, 2011

Key Lime Pie

I'm a huge fan of key lime pie.  There is just something about a graham cracker crust, with tart, creamy pie, and a bit of whipped cream.  It is such a dangerously delicious combination!  For this recipe, I was lazy and used a store bought crust (I know, shame on me), but if you have the time, make your own crust, it is worth it.  If you are looking for an easy dessert, then this is it.  The pie comes together in just a few minutes and then a few minutes in the oven.  The hard part is waiting for the pie to chill, but it is worth the wait. 

Most key lime pies I've seen call for egg yolks, but not this one.  When I saw this one I was very interested in it.  I LOVE sweetened condensed milk!  Who doesn't though, right?  I remember when I was little, my Mom would be baking something that called for condensed milk, I would be there waiting with a spoon to "lick" the can.  :)  Of course, after making the pie, I had to "lick" the cans.  Guilty pleasure, I guess.  Or re-living childhood memories, either way condensed milk is still just as delicious today as it was then.

Key Lime Pie

1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
3 cups sweetened condensed milk (about 2 cans)
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup key lime juice
1 tablespoon grated lime zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine condensed milk, sour cream, lime juice and lime rind.  Mix well and pour in to graham cracker crust.

Bake in preheated oven for 5 to 8 minutes, until tiny pinhole bubbles burst on the surface of the pie.  DO NOT BROWN!  Chill pie thoroughly before serving.  Garnish with lime slices and whipped cream if desired.

Yield - 8 servings

Hat Tip -

June 15, 2011

Snickers Cookies

One day I was looking at the Brown Eyed Baker's website and I came across these peanut butter snickers cookies.  I was in love!  Snickers are my favorite candy bar.  Everyday in my lunch box I pack two fun size snickers.  I look forward to eating them during the day, it's the little things.  :)

When I read the ingredient list, I didn't have milk chocolate chips, so I had to wait.  :(  After I picked them up, I was looking for an excuse to make these yummy cookies.  The excuse presented itself in the form of a friend's birthday dinner.  I got to bring dessert.  Yay me!  :)  I love a good excuse to bake for others.  The cookies were a huge hit!  Some of the cookies went home with friends as party favors.  

The cookies have an excellent flavor!  The texture is very smooth and creamy from the peanut butter.  I highly recommend these cookies, I can't wait to make them again. 

Peanut Butter Snickers Cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda (I reduced it by about 20% due to baking at altitude)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (I reduced it by about 20% due to baking at altitude)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (I reduced the butter by 1 tablespoon due to baking at altitude)
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk (I used plain, low fat yogurt)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped Snickers candy bars, about 4 regular size bars
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  Set aside.  

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and peanut butter together until fluffy.  Add the sugars and beat until smooth.  Add the egg and mix until combined.  Add the milk and vanilla extract and mix again.

Add the flour mixture and beat until the flour disappears.  Stir in chopped Snickers and milk chocolate chips.  

Drop by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets.  Gently flatten each cookie ball with the palm of your hand.  Bake 10-11 minutes, or until cookies are slightly brown on the edges.  

Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.  

Yield - About 24 cookies

June 12, 2011

Strawberry-Buttermilk Sherbert

This is my third use for four pounds of strawberries!  I hope you have enjoyed the strawberry recipes. 

Strawberry-buttermilk sherbert . . . AMAZING!  Honestly when I first starting making the sherbert, I wasn't sure how it would be with buttermilk in it.  Before I put the sherbert mixture in the fridge to chill for an hour, I sampled a little of the liquid.  It was so tasty, it tasted like liquid strawberry frosting!  Crazy, huh?  Once chilled, it went into my ice cream maker, just a bit later, we had semi-frozen sherbert.  I, of course, ate some while it was semi-frozen and then put the rest into the freezer to freeze further.  The sherbert is so fresh, light, and delicious!  You should run to your kitchen to make this . . . go now, don't wait.  :)

Strawberry-Buttermilk Sherbert

2 cups fresh strawberries*
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Garnish: fresh mint sprigs

Process strawberries in food processor or blender 30 seconds or until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides.  Pour strawberry puree through fine wire-mesh strainer into a large bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon.  Discard solids.  Add buttermilk, sugar, and vanilla to puree; stir until well blended.  Cover and chill 1 hour.

Pour strawberry mixture into freezer container of a 1 1/2 quart electric ice-cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.  (Instructions and times may vary.)  Garnish, if desired. 

*1 (16 ounce) package frozen strawberries, thawed, may be substituted. 

Yield - about 4 1/2 cups

Hat Tip -

June 5, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry shortcake . . . such yummy goodness!!  These are so delicious, it is hard to explain just how good they are.  :-)  Crunchy slightly sweet biscuit, sweet beautiful strawberries, and of course lovely vanilla whipped cream, in every bite.

Yes, this was another use for our 4 pounds of strawberries.  It didn't use a bunch of strawberries, since this recipe only made 2 servings, but I think it was definitely a good use of the strawberries. 

The shortcake pictured above is actually my second try.  The first batch I made didn't turn out right.  The butter melted,  ran all over the baking sheet and it ended up "frying" the bottom of the shortcakes.  So, I had to make a few changes to this recipe, I believe because of the altitude here in Colorado.  I decreased the butter from 4 tablespoons to 3 tablespoons, 4 was just too much liquid.  I also replaced 1 tablespoon of the all-purpose floor with cake flour.  Cake flour has cornstarch in it, so it helps absorb some of the excess liquid.  Finally I reduced the baking powder to 3/4 teaspoon, we don't need as much leavening agent since there is less air pressure here.  If you make this recipe it sea level, you shouldn't need to make any changes to it. 

Strawberry Shortcake

Shortcakes -
2/3 cup (3 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon table salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
2 tablespoons half-and-half (I didn't have half-and-half, so I used buttermilk)
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg white, lightly beaten

2 cups (10 ounces) fresh strawberries, hulled*
5 teaspoons sugar
1 recipe Whipped Cream (recipe below)

Shortcakes - Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pulse the flour, 5 teaspoons of the sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a food processor until combined, about 3 pulses.  Sprinkle the butter pieces over the top and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 15 pulses.  Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.  Whisk the half-and-half and whole egg together, then stir into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until large clumps form.

Turn the mixture out onto a well-floured counter.  Divide the dough into two even pieces, then, with well-floured hands, shape each into a 2 1/2 inch circle, about 1 inch thick.

Arrange the shortcakes on the prepared baking sheet.  Brush the tops with the egg white and sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar.  Bake the shortcakes until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking.  Transfer the shortcakes to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes.  (The shortcakes can be cooled completely and stored in a zipper-lock bag at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month.  Before serving, refresh in a 350 degree oven for 3 to 5 minutes, or 7 to 10 minutes if frozen.)

Fruit - Meanwhile, crush 3/4 cup of the strawberries with a potato masher in a medium bowl.  Slice the remaining 1 1/4 cups berries and fold them into the crushed berries along with the sugar.  Let the berry mixture sit at room temperature until the sugar has dissolved and the berries are juicy, about 10 minutes.

Split each shortcake and spoon the fruit over each bottom.  Dollop with the whipped cream and cap with the shortcake tops.  Serve.

Yield - 2 servings

*Fresh blueberries, raspberries, or halved blackberries can be substituted for some or all of the strawberries.  Do not substitute frozen fruit. 

Whipped Cream

1/3 cup heave cream, chilled
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla together in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until frothy, about 1 minute.  Increase the speed to high and continue to whip the cream to soft peaks, 1 to 3 minutes.

Yield - about 3/4 cup

Hat Tip - America's Test Kitchen 2009 Cooking for Two Special Issue

May 30, 2011

Strawberry Lemonade

We recently bought 4 pounds of strawberries from Costco for just the two of us!!  Crazy, I know, but it is strawberry season.  I'm a sucker for sweet smelling and beautiful strawberries.  As we were driving home, I realized I should do some fun stuff with all these strawberries.  Several strawberry recipes came to mind, as well as strawberry lemonade.  Off the top of my head I didn't have a recipe for it, so I had to do a little online searching.  I came across the recipe below from Life's Ambrosia.  I had everything on hand except for the sparkling water.  I didn't want to go out, so I just used regular water.  I think it turned out well!  The strawberry lemonade had a very pure, berry flavor, probably because I was a little short on the lemon juice.  It was very yummy nonetheless. 

As I mentioned, there are several other strawberry recipes that will be posted in the near future.  Try to control your excitement, but they will be berry good!  :-)

Strawberry Lemonade

6 Lemons (I used 4)
1 to 1 1/2 cups simple syrup (recipe below)
1 (16 ounce) container strawberries, hulled and halved
1 quart sparkling water (I used plain water)
Ice cubes

Roll the lemons back and forth a couple of times on the counter to release the juices.  Cut the lemons in half and juice into a bowl.  Remove any seeds that may have fallen into the juice.  You should get about 1 cup of lemon juice.

Using an immersion blender or regular blender, blend the strawberries with 1/2 cup simple syrup, until smooth. 

Pour lemon juice, strawberry puree, 1/2 cup simple syrup and sparkling water into a pitcher.  Add more simple syrup if you want a little more sweetness.  Add ice cubes.  Chill until ready to drink. 

 Simple Syrup

1 part water
1 part sugar

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat.

Bring to a boil.  Stir until sugar has dissolved.

Cool completely.

Hat Tip - Life's Ambrosia

May 8, 2011

Salty Chocolate-Pecan Candy

Here I go again with another pecan recipe.  I apologize if you don't like pecans hopefully you will like other recipes on my blog.  :-)  A word of warning -- I do know of at least one more pecan recipe in the near future.  I'm not sure why I seem to be so drawn to pecan recipes, except for the fact that I really like pecans.  

This candy looks so elegant and fancy!  It is super easy to make, so it's a great fake out.  The flavor is delicious.  Sweet white chocolate, rich dark chocolate, toasty pecans, and salty goodness all in one gorgeous bite.  I had quite a bit of candy, luckily it keeps well in the refrigerator for about a month.  

Salty Chocolate-Pecan Candy

1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
3 (4 oz) bars bittersweet chocolate baking bars (I used Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet)
3 (4 oz) white chocolate baking bars (I used Ghirardelli)
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or 3/4 tsp kosher salt

Place pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted.

Line a 17 x 12 inch jelly-roll pan with parchment paper.  Break each bar into 8 equal pieces.  (You will have 48 pieces total.)  Arrange in a checkerboard pattern in jelly-roll pan, alternating white and dark chocolate.  (Pieces will touch.)

Bake at 225 degrees for 5 minutes or just until chocolate is melted.  Remove pan to a wire rack.  Swirl chocolates into a marble pattern using a wooden pick.  Sprinkle evenly with toasted pecans and salt.  

Chill 1 hour or until firm.  Break into pieces.  Store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 month.  

Makes 1 3/4 lb

Hat Tip -

May 1, 2011



I think of snickerdoodle cookies as a classic, go to cookie; like chocolate chip or sugar cookies.  I seem to make a lot of go to cookies.  They are pretty simple to make and I usually have the ingredients on hand.  This snickerdoodle recipe was both simple to make and I had all the ingredients.  Yay!  :-)  The only draw back with this recipe is that you have to plan ahead a bit.  The dough has to be refrigerated overnight or for at least 3 hours.  It's not a huge problem, but you will have to wait a bit longer to eat the cookies.  If you are able to plan ahead, then refrigerating the dough can work to your advantage.  The dough can be refrigerated up to 1 week.  I actually made the dough 2 days in advance.  I was responsible for making desserts for a party, so I wanted to get as much done ahead of time as possible and it worked out well.

The cookies smelled so yummy as they were baking.  I just love the smell of cinnamon! 

This recipe comes from the Flour Bakery cookbook.  Sweetie and I visited Flour Bakery many times when we lived in Boston.  Defiantly check out the bakery if you are in the Boston area, you won't be disappointed!  Sweetie's favorite were the sticky sticky buns.


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 1/2 cup for coating
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/4 cup ground cinnamon

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer or a wooden spoon), cream together the butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy.  (This step will take about 10 minutes if using a handheld mixer or a spoon.)  Stop the mixer a few times and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle to release any clinging butter or sugar.  Beat in the eggs on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until thoroughly combined.  Scrape the bowl and paddle again to make sure the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.  

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar.  On low speed (or with the wooden spoon), slowly blend the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture and then mix just until the flour is totally incorporated and the dough is evenly mixed.  

For the best results, scrape the dough into an airtight container and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight (or for at least 3 to 4 hours) before baking.  When ready to bake, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon.  Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons into the cinnamon-sugar mixture and roll to coat.  Place the coated balls of dough on a baking sheet, spacing them about 3 inches apart.  Flatten each ball slightly with the palm of your hand.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown on the edges and slightly soft in the center.  Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.  

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.  The unbaked dough may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Makes about 24 cookies.

March 22, 2011

My Favorite Nut

Pecans are my favorite nut!  I wonder if it is because I'm from the South . . .  

I do know the flavor of pecans is so yummy!  Surprisingly, pecans can get better with the addition of sugar and spices.  I've made these spiced pecans numerous times.  I first made them last year for a little post-holiday party.  They were a huge hit with me (oh, and the guests, haha).  I recently made them again for a neighborhood get together.  I was so excited to have an excuse to make them again!  :-)  The leftovers didn't last long.  

Spiced Pecans

1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
3 cups pecan halves
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I used 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, I'm not a huge fan).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. 

In a small bowl, beat the egg white with the water.  Stir in pecans, mixing until well moistened.  

In a small bowl, mix together sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.  Sprinkle over moistened nuts.  Spread nuts onto prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice.  Be careful not to overcook and burn the nuts.  

Hat Tip -

March 19, 2011

Chewy Sugar Cookies

I came across this chewy sugar cookie recipe on one day.  The recipe sounded easy and I knew Sweetie was a big fan of sugar cookies.  :)  I don't usually make sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies are my usual "go-to" cookies.  I was also curious to see how sugar cookies would be with cream cheese in them.  The result was yummy!  They had a very sugary, vanilla flavor with crunchy sugar on the outside.

Chewy Sugar Cookies

2 1/4 cups (11 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar, plus 1/3 cup for rolling
2 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.  Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

Place 1 1/2 cups sugar and cream cheese in a large bowl.  Place remaining 1/3 cup sugar in shallow baking dish or pie plate and set aside.  Pour warm butter over sugar and cream cheese and whisk to combine (some small lumps of cream cheese will remain but will smooth out latter).  Whisk in oil until incorporated.  Add egg, milk, and vanilla; continue to whisk until smooth.  Add flour mixture and mix with rubber spatula until soft homogeneous dough forms.  

Divide dough into 24 equal pieces, about 2 tablespoons each (or use #40 portion scoop).  Using hands, roll dough into balls.  Working in batches, roll balls in reserved sugar to coat and evenly space on prepared baking sheet, 12 dough balls per sheet.  Using bottom of drinking glass, flatten dough balls until 2 inches in diameter.  Sprinkle tops evenly with 4 teaspoons of sugar remaining in shallow dish (2 teaspoons per tray), discarding any remaining sugar.

Bake, 1 tray at at time, until edges are set and just beginning to brown, 11 to 13 minutes, rotating tray after 7 minutes.  Cool cookies on baking sheets 5 minutes.  Using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Makes 24 cookies

February 13, 2011

My First Layer Cake

I'm paying tribute to my Southern roots with another Southern classic, red velvet cake.  I've been a huge fan of red velvet cake for many years although I did go on hiatus from eating it for a few years.  It was just too much of a good thing.  I fell in love with red velvet cake again at the Two Little Red Hens Bakery in New York City.  Their red velvet cupcake was delicious!!  If you are ever in NYC, check out this bakery.  After eating their cupcakes, I made some of my own last year for Valentine's Day.  They were a huge hit at work.  This year I purchased Cook's Illustrated special issue Holiday Baking.  On the cover was a beautiful red velvet cake.  I decided I had to make it.  I had not made a layer cake before.  I've made bundt and sheet cakes, but the frosting part of a layer cake made me a bit nervous.  I faced my fears and made a layer cake, and I think it turned out well.

The making and baking part of the cake layers wasn't difficult.  The layers stuck just a little bit in the cake pans, but it was easily covered with the cream cheese frosting!  :)  The frosting was easy to make as well, except for the confectioners' sugar mishap.  The directions said to put the sugar and butter in the mixing bowl and beat at medium-high speed.  I did that, only to have a cloud of confectioners' sugar go everywhere.  Oops!  I quickly turned it off and draped a towel over the stand mixer to catch any other clouds. 

Then it was time to frost the cake.  It actually wasn't as difficult as I had originally thought, although it was a bit time consuming.  The cake turned out beautifully.  I'm so proud of it!  :)  (I texted photos to many friends with my new accomplishment.)  The cake is so yummy, especially the cream cheese frosting!!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Red Velvet Cake

Cake -

2 1/4 cups (11 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch table salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
2 tablespoons (one 1-ounce bottle) red food coloring
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar

Frosting -

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 cups (16 ounces) confectioners' sugar
16 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch table salt

For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.  Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.  Whisk buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla and eggs in large measuring cup.  Mix cocoa with food coloring in small bowl until smooth paste forms.

With stand mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as necessary.  Add one-third of flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed until just incorporated, about 30 seconds.  Add half of buttermilk mixture and beat on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds.  Scrape down bowl as necessary and repeat with half of remaining flour mixture, remaining buttermilk mixture, and finally remaining flour mixture.  Scrape down bowl, add cocoa mixture, and beat on medium speed until completely incorporated, about 30 seconds.  Using rubber spatula, give batter final stir.  Scrape into prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.  Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely, at least 30 minutes.

For the frosting: With stand mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add cream cheese, 1 piece at a time, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds.  Beat in vanilla and salt.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

When cakes are cools, spread about 2 cups frosting on 1 cake layer.  Top with second cake layer and spread top and sides of cake with remaining frosting.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 3 days.

Serves 12

Hat Tip - Cooks Illustrated - Holiday Baking 2010 Special Issue

January 18, 2011

Pecan Squares

I'm from Georgia, so I grew up eating a lot of pecan pie.  It is such a yummy dessert especially with a little vanilla ice cream.  Oh my!  As I have gotten older, the gummy, gooey part of the pecan pie started grossing me out a bit.  I came across this recipe on one day.  I bookmarked it on my computer and then waited for the perfect opportunity to make it.  Our neighbors had a little get together and asked everyone to bring something.  I thought of these pecan squares.  I had all the ingredients on hand.  They were very easy to make.

These pecan squares are delicious!  They are so buttery and nutty, it was amazing.  They were a huge hit at the get together.  :)

When I make these again, I won't pat the bottom mixture 1 1/2 inches up the sides of the dish.  I felt like that was too high above the pecan filling.  Next time I will probably do 1/2 to 1 inch up the sides.

Pecan Squares

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
2/3 cup butter
3 tablespoons whipping cream
3 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

Sift together 2 cups flour and 2/3 cup powdered sugar.  Cut in 3/4 cup softened butter using a pastry blender or fork just until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Pat mixture on bottom and up 1 1/2 inches up sides of lightly greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Cool.

Bring brown sugar, honey, 2/3 cup butter, and whipping cream to a boil in saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir in pecans, pour hot filling into prepared crust.  

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden and bubbly.  Cool completely before cutting into 2-inch squares. 

Makes about 28 squares.

Hat Tip -

January 14, 2011

White Chocolate, Cranberry, Macadamia Nut Cookies

So, the holidays have come and gone.  I did some holiday baking but sadly didn't have time to post them.  Now that the holidays are over, I'm going to play catch up.  I know these cookies are festive for Christmas but I think they would be yummy anytime of the year.  I love dried cranberries; it's a nice tartness to compliment the sweet white chocolate and then the salty macadamia nuts, oh my!  It's a combination made in heaven!

I had a ton of these cookies!  It makes 36 large or 72 small cookies.  I had plenty to share with our new neighbors, take some to work, and share some with family.  They were a huge hit!  I'm beginning to get a reputation in the neighborhood as the baker!  That is a reputation I can be proud of.  :)

I decreased the amount of white sugar in the cookies to about 1/2 a cup.

White Chocolate, Cranberry, Macadamia Nut Cookies

3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed golden brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries (about 6 ounces)
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips (about 8 1/2 ounces)
1 cup coarsely chopped roasted salted macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.  Sift first 3 ingredients into a medium bowl.  Using electric mixer, beat butter in a large bowl until fluffy.  Add both sugars and beat until blended.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, then vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and beat just until blended.  Using spatula, stir in cranberries, white chocolate chips, and nuts.

For large cookies, drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheets, spacing 2 1/2 inches apart.  For smaller cookies, drop dough by level tablespoonfuls onto sheets, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart.

Bake cookies just until golden, about 18 minutes for large and 15 minutes for small cookies.  Cool on sheets.

Hat Tip -