Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I have been "a little" busy... :)

Yes, I have been just a little busy these past couple of weeks. Fourteen different kinds of cookies, double batches of each kind- baked more than 1,400 cookies all total in less than 10 days. My family does think I am nuts. And i do admit it, I am nuts- especially for nuts (11 out of the 14 kinds of cookies I made have nuts in them- almonds, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, pignoli, you name it). Here are a few pictures:

Assorted cookie platter for my friends at work:

Russian tea cakes (my favorites)- tons of walnuts in these!

Creme de menthe cookies:

Peanut blossoms (also known as sweet spots):

Italian wedding cookies:

Thumbprint cookies with raspberry preserves:

Spritz cookies:

Pignoli cookies (gluten free):

Nut tassies:

Rum balls:

Kitchen sink cookies:

Forgotten cookies (meringues with chocolate chips and walnuts):

Almond-cranberry biscotti:

Chocolate-walnut biscotti:

Eggnog sugar cookies:

My Christmas cookies packaged for gift-giving: family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, teachers, mailman, crossing guard, garbage collector... all on the "nice" list :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Carrot-Apple Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

The recipe for zucchini carrot cupcakes I discovered recently has been such a hit with everyone, that I've made them twice this past week. In fact, I had all intentions of making them for a third time today while preparing a meal for a family from our church. I took out all my ingredients, I shredded my carrots and zucchini, read out the dry ingredients from the recipe card and mixed them in a separate bowl all the while speaking on the phone to a friend of mine. Now, if you ever decide to undertake a baking project while on the phone, I would strongly advise against that because in my case, I realized I was actually making a different recipe only when I was half way done mixing all the ingredients- when I got to the point where it said 1 cup grated apple. Wait a minute!? The zucchini-carrot cupcakes did not have any apples in them! Duh! Look on the top of the recipe card- carrot-apple cupcakes! I already had my zucchini mixed with the carrots, so there was no turning back. :) I figured, well, here is an opportunity to try another new recipe which at some point I obviously liked enough to copy down on a recipe card. That's how I got to carrot-apple cupcakes. The recipe is different in a few ways from the zucchini carrot one:

it has apples,
it has raisins,
it has 4 instead of 2 eggs,
it has only cinnamon instead of the 4 different spices in the other recipe

Here is what you need:

2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar
1 cup (240 ml) safflower, corn, or canola oil
2 cups (210 grams) finely grated raw carrots
1 cup grated apple (approximately 2 large apples)
1/2 cup (55 grams) pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup (100 grams) raisins or currants


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. 
Place paper liners in 24 muffin cups.
In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon. 

In another large bowl whisk the eggs, sugar, and oil until slightly thickened. Fold in the flour mixture until incorporated. With a large rubber spatula fold in the grated carrots, grated muffin, chopped nuts, and raisins. Evenly divide the batter between the 24 muffin cups and bake about 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.  

Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack. Pipe or with a knife or small metal spatula spread cream cheese frosting on top of each cupcake. Cover and refrigerate the cupcakes until serving time.

I frosted my cupcakes with the maple brown sugar cream cheese frosting I used on the zucchini carrot cupcakes. It was a perfect combination. 

While the carrot-apple cupcakes were really tasty, I preferred the spices in the zucchini cupcakes better, so next time I make them, I will definitely use not just cinnamon but: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Otherwise, I liked the moisture the apples added to the cupcakes and the extra sugar boost the raisins gave them too. Definitely another good fall/winter recipe.

Recipe adapted  from:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Zucchini Carrot Cupcakes with Maple-Brown Sugar Frosting

Tonight, I decided to bake zucchini carrot cupcakes with maple-brown sugar frosting. I had been thinking of making something mapley-tasting (if there is even such a word in the English language) for some time now and found this recipe while "surfing the net" :))) I couldn't have been happier with the outcome- the cupcakes turned out delicious! I know I will definitely be making them again. I adapted the recipe from a recipe for cake, but if you decide to make it into cake instead of cupcakes, just pour the batter into two greased 8 inch round pans and bake for 25 minutes or until they test done.

Here is what you need:

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup chopped walnuts- you can always omit those in case of nut allergies but i think that for people like me who happen to love anything that has nuts in it- they make the recipe!

Preheat oven to 350F.
Beat sugar and eggs until frothy. Whisk in canola oil.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt in a separate bowl. Beat into egg mixture until well combined.
Fold in carrots, zucchini and walnuts.
Divide equally into muffin pans lined with cupcake paper liners. I was able to fill 12 regular and 12 mini cupcakes with this recipe, or if you are making only minis- 48 all total! Bake at 350F for 12 minutes for mini cupcakes and 18-20 minutes for regular cupcakes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Let cool 5-10 minutes before removing from pans. Cool completely before frosting.

This is how my cupcakes looked like right out of the oven- they rose beautifully and smelled delicious!

I did frost my cupcakes with the frosting suggested in the original recipe but I made a few changes to it:

Maple-Brown Sugar Frosting

1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream together cream cheese, butter and brown sugar. Beat in maple syrup and vanilla until well combined. The frosting, as it turned out from this recipe was too runny for me to be able to pipe on the cupcakes, so I ended up adding about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of powdered sugar. The original recipe called for 1/4 cup of maple syrup too, but I cut that in half. It wasn't with a strong maple flavor, but you can always add 1 tsp of maple extract if this is your preference. It turned out a lot lighter in consistency- and richness- than my regular buttercream frosting and it paired very well with the zucchini carrot cupcakes.

This was the end result: yum!

As an afterthought, I figured I'd add walnuts on top of the frosting- this way people will know there are walnuts inside the cupcakes in case they are allergic (whereas in my book a few extra nuts are always welcome :))

Recipe adapted from: 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Homemade Pizza

If there is one thing my kids love more than helping me bake cakes, it is making their own pizza! They have so much fun creating their own designs, they do feel like real chefs! It is fun watching them. Here is how our Sunday night went...

First, I made the pizza dough with the invaluable help of my KitchenAid mixer fitted with the dough hook. I used a recipe which I really like- it has been my favorite for a few years now. I took it from a book called "Italian Farmhouse Cookbook". It is quite simple (especially if you have a stand mixer which will do all the kneading for you, as in my case :), it just requires a little planning because the dough needs to rise for a couple of hours.

Here is all you need:

1 1/3 cup lukewarm water
2 tsps active dry yeast
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp fine sea salt (i generally use kosher salt)

In the work bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the water and yeast. Add the oil and mix well. Add 1 cup of flour and mix until smooth. Stir in the salt and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. Because of the oil, the dough will feel somewhat slippery and it may not be a homogeneous lump at first. Knead, adding as little flour, as necessary, until it comes together and is satiny and elastic, about 5 minutes. The dough should be moist because of the oil but not wet and it shouldn't stick to a clean finger.

Place the dough in a clean (unoiled) large bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let rise at room temperature (68 to 70F) until it is doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down the dough and use it in recipes as called for.

Once i got to this point, I divided the dough into little balls like that (this recipe is usually enough for about 4 average size balls but I am missing one in this picture- already rolled out :)) :

Next, we rolled out the balls on a floured surface. Because the dough is quite elastic, rolling it out is usually not enough. I usually end up stretching it out with my hands and my daughter likes doing that too. If it doesn't come out perfectly round- that's okay- it looks more homemade this way, and it tastes just as yummy! :))) Once we have the rolled out/stretched dough to the desired size/thickness, we put it on a piece of parchment paper sprinkled with corn meal. Then, the kids spread tomato sauce:

Next, go all the toppings. My daughter made a smiley face design out of ham and onions- her favorite. :))) Here it is right before it hit the oven (which I preheat to 500F with the soap stone inside and then just slide the pizza with the parchment paper right onto it):

10 minutes later and here it is- hot out of the oven: the smiley face pizza with a hair bow from a broccoli spear :)

And my son's dinosaur design- complete with trees from broccoli and pineapple for the sun:

Next, we had a big feast! :)))

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Oatmeal Cookies Day!

Wow! Snow storm on the east coast in october! We didn't bargain for that! So, to warm up the house nicely, my daughter and I decided we should bake some cookies! Oatmeal raisin cookies was the obvious choice because they are Daddy's favorite. :))

Among the zillions of other gifts, my daughter actually got a cookie book for her birthday! She feels so grown-up now! She does love helping mommy in the kitchen. :) Anyway, the book is called "501 cookies, the ultimate a-z guide to bars, drops, crescents, snaps, squares and everything that crumbles" by Gregg R. Gillespie. So, she chose a recipe for oatmeal cookies from there. I have about 2-3 other recipes that I have been using over the years and which I like quite a lot, but I enjoy trying out new recipes- you never know when you will find a new keeper! :) So, here is the recipe we used tonight:

2 cups all-purpose flower
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup (6 oz) rolled oats
1 cup raisins

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
3. In a large bowl, cream the vegetable shortening and sugar (I use my KitchenAid mixer for that- thank God for that thing- it's worth its weight in gold!). Beat in the eggs. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients. Fold in the oats and raisins.
4. Drop the dough by spoonfuls 1 1/2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet (I personally use a small ice-cream scoop for that job- works like a charm every time!).
5. Bake for 10-12, until lightly golden brown. (I ended up baking mine 1-2 minutes longer.) Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Baking notes: you can add vanilla extract or almond extract to the dough to enhance the flavor of these cookies. (I did put 1 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract in mine.)

Now, although they did turn out pretty good, I wouldn't call them my favorite oatmeal cookies. I guess there were a couple of issues I had with them: 1) I thought the cinnamon was overpowering; 2) I wasn't crazy about the idea of using vegetable shortening instead of butter; and 3) I didn't feel that the recipe had enough oats in it. The other recipes for oatmeal cookies I have use more rolled oats and less flour and produce a slightly chewier and nuttier tasting cookie than these which I would expect from oatmeal cookies. Other than that, these look good, and certainly taste fine, they just wouldn't be my first choice when it comes to oatmeal cookies. But they sure did warm up the house on this freezing, snowy, windy Pctober night! :))) And hopefully Daddy will like them- which in the end is all that matters, because we decided to make them for him in the first place! :)))

Baby Shower Mini Cupcakes

Just made these cuties for a baby shower. They are mini strawberry cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting that has a touch of strawberry flavor in it too. Pink cake, pink frosting, hot pink liners, light pink pearls on top of each one- it's definitely a girlie-girl thing! :))

"Hi Nadia,
The cupcakes were beautiful and tasted as good as they looked. Loved the strawberry.....The minis were very very cute."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Flower Fairy Cupcakes

Yet another flower fairy celebration, this time with cupcakes...

Flower fairy cupcake kit by Meri Meri, which I ordered through amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Meri-Cupcake-Kit-Flower-Fairies/dp/B004S3DDEA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1319428476&sr=8-1

These wilton cupcake stands are really handy and make for an elegant presentation: http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?id=4BD856D4-802D-F658-02A787D3CB120535&fid=DA7FB668-423B-522D-F18858CEEA9A326B

The recipe for the cupcakes was from www.allrecipes.com. They were strawberry flavor with buttercream frosting (in which I added some strawberry extract as well :) Here is the exact recipe for the strawberry cake:  http://allrecipes.com/recipe/strawberry-cake-from-scratch/detail.aspx

And these were the matching flower fairy napkins from Meri Meri: http://www.amazon.com/gp/search?rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Ameri+meri+flower+fairies+napkins&keywords=meri+meri+flower+fairies+napkins&ie=UTF8&qid=1319428531&ajr=0

It was a truly magical birthday!:)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bake Sale Cupcakes :)

Chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with my signature buttercream frosting- special batch for my church bake sale tomorrow :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Flower Fairies Birthday Cake

Sheet cake which had to look like a garden with a lot of flowers and flower fairies: my daughter's favorite thing lately! :) 
Half vanilla, half chocolate on the inside with vanilla custard, whipped cream and bananas in between :)

How it started:

How it ended:

Birthday Cupcakes for School :)

These are the vanilla cupcakes with buttercream frosting I made for my daughter's birthday celebration at school. We played it safe with the flavors. :)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Birthday Cake for my Sweet Girl :)

This was actually an orange poke cake with orange flavored buttercream not that you could tell from the way it looks on the outside: my daughter wanted it pink, purple and blue :)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mocha Cake

This cake turned out unbelievably delicious. It is chocolate cake with mocha buttercream frosting.
There was not a crumb left at the party I took it to. :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Orange Dream Cake

Another high-school graduation cake for a girl whose signature color is orange :) And to go with the color, the flavor of the cake and the icing was orange as well. It has to be one of my all-time favorites- absolutely perfect for summer! 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Guitar Cake

This was a guitar cake for a high-school graduation.
Lots of fun to make and i was really pleased with how it came out, so were my customers! :)

"Nadia, the cake was not only beautiful, it was delicious! We gobbled it up. Thank you! Your cake making skills are incredible!"

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Teacher Appreciation Cake :)

Yes, this was the cake I made for teacher appreciation day. It was a little sweeter than sending a thank-you card with the same message :)))) And my guess is- a little more appreciated :))

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Brother and Sister Cakes :)

These were cakes for a brother and sister born a few days apart.
One chocolate in pink with white rosettes, one vanilla in blue with white seashells :) Both sweet :)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Squiggles Cake :)

I was just having fun with this one- made it for a friends' party and did whatever I felt like.
It's therapeutic to do this once in a while :)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Birthday Cake with Scrolls

First attempt at scrolls- need a lot more practicing :) But my neighbor was happy anyway. :)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

50th Birthday Cake

Lots of flowers (royal icing) in a white basket- this is what the biethday lady wanted because it reminded her of her bridal shower cake :)
Three layers- vanilla, chocolate, vanilla; all buttercream frosting as per customer's request. 

The cake was unbelievable....everyone raved!! I can't wait for another piece tomorrow. Thank you so much. S."

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