Sunday, December 22, 2013

Gingerbread cookies

These gingerbread cookies were the perfect recipe for the holiday season! My kids had fun decorating them and everybody loves getting them as gifts! :)

  • ½ cup shortening
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup unsulphered molasses
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. flavoring extract such as vanilla or orange
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp ground nutmeg

Instructions
  1. Cream together shortening, butter, and granulated sugar.
  2. Add the molasses and eggs and whip until light and fluffy.
  3.  Sift all of your dry ingredients into a large bowl then use a measuring cup to add the dry ingredients about a cup at a time.
  4. Separate the dough into three equal pieces, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour or two, or overnight.
  5. When ready to take dough out of fridge, preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
  6. Roll out on floured parchment paper to about 1/4 an inch thick and cut into desired shapes. Place the cut out cookies into the freezer for ten minutes or so before baking.
  7. Bake at 375° for 6-8 minutes for small cookies, 8-10 minutes for medium, and 10-15 minutes for large. Let cool, then decorate with vanilla royal icing.
     

Recipe courtesy: sweetsugarbelle.com 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The best sugar cookie recipe!

Anna strikes again! She wanted to make sugar cookies to bring to her MAST class for their Christmas lunch and she had to be able to do it all on her own!! I found a recipe for her that was described in the following way: "Soft cut out sugar cookie recipe that keeps its shape and dough does not need to be chilled before baking- perfect edges every time!" I thought, that is exactly what we are looking for here! Let's go for it. And go for it, she did! She mixed, rolled, and cut out the dough all on her own, and after I helped bake it, she finished the cookies off by decorating them with icing and sprinkles! Thy turned out out-of-this-world delicious and beautiful to boot! My guess is her classmates are going to love her tomorrow. :)))

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in vanilla  and almond extracts and eggs until well incorporated.
  4. In a separate bowl combine baking powder with flour and add a little at a time to the wet ingredients. The dough will be very stiff. If it becomes too stiff for your mixer, either switch from paddle attachment to dough hook or turn out the dough onto a counter top surface, wet your hands and finish off kneading the dough by hand.
  5. Do not chill the dough. (If you must chill the dough just leave it on the counter top for 10 minutes before rolling or work the dough with your hands for a few minutes.) Divide into workable batches, roll out onto a floured surface and cut. You want these cookies to be on the thicker side (closer to 1/4 inch rather than 1/8).
  6. Bake at 350 for 7-9 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheets until firm enough to transfer to a cooling rack.
  7. Frost with you favorite icing. We used water icing on these, as it is very easy to work with. Just mix powdered sugar with very little bit of water and keep adding water a few drops at a time until you reach the desired consistency. Color and ice away! :)
Yield will vary depending on the size of your cookie cut-outs but I would say you should have anywhere between 4 and 6 dozen- the recipe makes a big batch of dough.


Recipe courtesy to Katrina's kitchen: best-sugar-cookie-recipe

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

These peanut butter oatmeal cookies are homey, comforting and simply delicious. They are also a cinch to prepare; in fact, my 9-year-old daughter made them almost on her own. What better way to spend a snowy afternoon than to bake a batch of these, enjoy a few at home and deliver some to your neighbors to spread some good cheer? :) Merry Christmas!


Ingredients:
2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats (however, I used old-fashioned oats and they worked great)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tps salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs 
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together the butter and peanut butter until smooth. Gradually add both sugars, beating until smooth, then beat in the eggs and vanilla extract. Add the oat and flout mixture, a little at a time, until well combined. Drop the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets about 1 inch apart.

Bake until lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Transfer to wire racks while still warm and cool completely. Store in airtight containers.

Makes 6 dozen small cookies.


Recipe courtesy: "All-American Desserts, 400 Star-Spangled, Razzle-Dazzle Recipes for America's Best Loved Desserts" by Judith M. Fertig

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Greek Nut and Spice Cake (a.k.a. Karethopita)

Another amazing- and Sweet- dessert from "All-American Desserts: 400 Star-Spangled, Razzle-Dazzle Recipes for America's Best Loved Desserts" by Judith M. Fertig.
Here is what the author herself says about it: "Also known as karethopita, this moist cake, cut into diamond shapes and served on frilly paper doilies, is an annual hit at Greek festivals around the country. Besides its heritage though, this flavorful cake appeals to the modern cook because it's easy to make, stays moist, and is easily portable to the lake or a country home, where you and your guests can nibble it away during a three-day weekend."


Cake:
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 cup milk
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

Sugar Syrup:
2 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan and set aside.

To make the cake, in a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk the vinegar and the milk and set aside for several minutes to sour. In a medium-size bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves. With an electric mixer, beat together the oil, sugar, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Beat in the vanilla and sour milk. Add the dry ingredients gradually, beating well. Beat in the walnuts. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Allot the cake to cool completely in the pan while you make the syrup.

To make the syrup, bring the ingredients to a boil in a medium-size heavy saucepan over medium-high heat and boil for 5 minutes. With a wooden skewer, poke random holes halfway through the cake, then pour the hot syrup over the cake. Let the syrup soak into the cake, then cut it into squares or diamond shapes and serve.


Recipe courtesy: "All-American Desserts: 400 Star-Spangled, Razzle-Dazzle Recipes for America's Best Loved Desserts" by Judith M. Fertig;
All-American-Desserts

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Fresh Pear Torta

This delightful Fresh Pear Torta comes from my new favorite dessert cookbook, "All-American Desserts: 400 Star-Spangled, Razzle-Dazzle Recipes for America's Best Loved Desserts" by Judith M. Fertig. I have made a bunch of recipes from this gem of a book already and they all have been keepers. The Fresh Pear Torta is one of my personal favorites, as it is very easy to make and- as the name suggests- very fresh tasting. Do not omit the lemon zest- it really brings out the fresh pear flavor and makes this dessert "delicately delicious". 

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus tablespoon (9 tbsps) unsalted butter, melted
5 or 6 ripe but firm pears, such as Bartlett, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)


Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan with 2-inch sides, tapping out the excess flour, and set aside.
  2. Pour 1 tbsp of the melted butter into a large skillet over medium heat and cook the pears until softened, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
  3.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and granulated sugar into a large mixing bowl. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup of melted butter, the whole eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, and lemon zest. With a wooden spoon, stir the mixture into the dry ingredients and blend until smooth. With a rubber spatula, fold in the sauteed pears and their juices (if it looks like the juices they released are too much, strain first- you don't want a batter that is too thin). Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with the spatula.
  4. Bake the cake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan. Transfer to a cake plate and dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

Recipe courtesy: "All-American Desserts: 400 Star-Spangled, Razzle-Dazzle Recipes for America's Best Loved Desserts" by Judith M. Fertig: All-American Desserts

Monday, December 9, 2013

Quilt Country Pumpkin Brownies

These pumpkin brownies are so easy to make that your 9-year-old daughter can make them on her own! And they are so yummy that your entire family will love them! Even a family who previously hated all things pumpkin! Yes, this is officially the recipe which converted my pumpkin-hating family into pumpkin lovers!

This is what the Judith M. Fertig (author of  "All-American Desserts, 400 Star-Spangled, Razzle-Dazzle Recipes for America's Best Loved Desserts") says about these terrific pumpkin brownies:
"Quilters love to gather at a friend's house and work on their latest projects. But usually they don't just bring needlework with them- they also bring a dessert. Like a good quilt pattern, these cake-like brownies, can be modified and adapted to suit your mood or the season. Whether you frost them or leave them plain, these moist and delicious morsels are good nay time of year, but especially in the fall." I couldn't agree more!


Pumpkin Brownies:
  • 2 cups Granulated/White Sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoons Salt
  • 3/4 cups Canola or Vegetable Oil
  • 1 cans (15 Oz. Can) Pumpkin Puree
  • 2 whole Large Eggs, Lightly Beaten
  • 1/2 cups Pecans (optional)
Cream Cheese Frosting (optional):
  • 3-ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan or line with parchment paper. Set aside.

To make the brownies, sift together the sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the oil and with mixer on low, beat until the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the pumpkin puree and beat until smooth. Add the eggs and beat for another minute. Fold in the pecans, if using. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (start checking at 30 minutes as ovens vary). Remove pan from oven. Let the brownies cool in the pan.

To make the frosting, if using, put the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of your stand mixer and beat on medium until light and fluffy. Stir in the powdered sugar, about 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. (I like to put a large kitchen towel on top of my stand mixer while doing this, to avoid a cloud of powdered sugar dust all over my kitchen. :)) Continue beating until the frosting is smooth.

When the brownies have cooled, use a rubber spatula to spread the cream cheese frosting on top, if desired. You can also sprinkle chopped pecans on top before serving. Enjoy!


Recipe adapted from my new favorite dessert cookbook, "All American Desserts, 400 Star-Spangled, Razzle-Dazzle Recipes for America's Best Loved Desserts" by Judith M. Fertig: All American Desserts

Saturday, November 30, 2013

New York Style Cheesecake- Wow!

I love New York Style cheesecake, but I had only heard horror stories of it sinking and cracking while baking, so I never had the courage to make it myself. Until this week. And am I glad I finally gave it a try as it turned out absolutely spectacular! True, I followed all directions closely, to avoid any failures but I was really rewarded for sticking to them. The cheesecake was picture-perfect and amazingly delicious: creamy, light and decadent! I hope you give this awesome recipe a go- it really isn't as challenging as it is usually made to sound.

The most important tips to remember:
  • use ingredients at room temperature
  • grease bottom and sides of pan to avoid cracking
  • do not overbeat
  • bake in water bath (read below)
  • do not overbake
  • allow enough time to cool in oven

Graham cracker crust:

  • 1-1/2 packed cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs (about 12 cracker rectangles)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted; plus 1 teaspoon melted butter for the pan

Cheesecake:

  • 4 8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • cranberry-cointreau sauce (see below) 

Set out the ingredients:

At least 4 hours before you begin, set the cream cheese, eggs, and sour cream on your kitchen counter because it’s essential that the ingredients be at room temperature before you mix the batter.

Make the crust:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Stir in the 5 Tbs. melted butter until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Dump the crumbs into a 9-inch springform pan that’s about 2-1/2 inches deep and press them firmly into the bottom and about halfway up the sides. Bake until the crust is fragrant and warm to the touch, 5 to 7 min.; it’s fine if the crust starts to look golden, but it shouldn’t brown too much. Let the pan cool on a rack while you prepare the cheesecake batter.

Make the cheesecake batter:

With a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese with the sugar at medium-low speed until the mixture is smooth and somewhat fluffy, about 2 min. Scrape the bowl. On low speed, beat in the flour. One at a time, beat in the eggs on low speed, mixing the batter for only 15 to 20 seconds after each egg is added, just until it’s incorporated, and scraping the bowl each time. Don’t overbeat. Add the sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla. Beat at low speed until well combined, about 30 seconds. The batter should be smooth and have the consistency of a thick milkshake.

Bake the cake in a water bath:

Wrap the outside of the pan tightly with two sheets of extra-wide (18-inch) heavy-duty aluminum foil to make the pan waterproof. Brush the inside rim of the pan with a light coating of the remaining 1 tsp. melted butter, taking care not to disturb the crust.

Pour the batter into the prepared crust; it should cover the crust completely and come to within about 1/2 inch of the pan’s rim. Put the springform pan in a roasting pan and carefully pour hot water into the roasting pan until the water reaches halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake at 350°F, without opening the oven door for the first hour, until the top of the cake is golden brown and doesn’t wobble in the middle when the pan is nudged (a little jiggle is fine), about 1 hour 10 min. to 1 hour 15 min. (The cheesecake will be gooey in the middle; don’t worry, it will set as it cools.)



Let the cake cool:

After turning the oven off, leave cheesecake in the oven and crack oven door a little bit. Let cheesecake rest and gradually cool in the oven for about an hour.
Remove the cheesecake pan from the water bath, remove the foil wrapping (you may need an extra set of hands for this), and set the pan on a wire rack. Run a thin-bladed knife around the inside rim of the pan to free the cheesecake from the sides of the pan. Let the cake cool on the rack until barely warm.
Refrigerate uncovered for at least 8 hours or overnight. The cheesecake will firm up during chilling.

I also made the Cranberry cointreau sauce but did not serve it on top, as was suggested in the original recipe since there were children at the party. Instead, I served it in a separate dish on the side so the grown-ups could help themselves to it as a garnish. The combination is truly delicious!

Cranberry-cointreau sauce:

  • 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 12-oz. package fresh cranberries, rinsed, dried, and picked over
  • 2 Tbs. Cointreau
In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar, honey, and 3/4 cup water to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the cranberries. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the foam has turned fuchsia and many of the berries have popped, about 5 min. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the Cointreau. Pour into a heatproof bowl and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours, but preferably overnight. The sauce can be made two days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Serve the cheesecake:

I decorated my cheesecake with small rosettes of whipped cream and cranberries on top of them. You could most certainly leave it plain. It is delicious either way! :)

Run a thin-bladed knife around the inside rim of the pan again—taking care not to disturb the crust—to loosen the chilled cheesecake. Unclasp and remove the side of the springform pan, and then use a wide spatula to transfer the cake to a serving plate.
Right before serving, use a slotted spoon to scoop the cranberries out of the syrup and let them drain briefly before spooning them onto the top of the cake. (Save the leftover syrup for pouring onto vanilla ice cream or mixing with seltzer to make cran-berry spritzers.)
Before slicing, rinse a long, thin-bladed knife under hot water. Wipe the blade between slices and rinse it under hot water again as needed.
Wrapped and refrigerated, the topped cheesecake will keep for a week.

I found this recipe here:  New York Style Cheesecake

Friday, November 29, 2013

Key Lime Pie

If you love citrus flavored desserts, this pie is the thing for you! It is unbelievably easy to make and with minimal effort, it looks- and tastes- like a gourmet dessert. It is out of this world delicious! There was not a single person at the party I brought it to that did not love it. Definitely going in my arsenal of quick, effortless and sublime desserts- for any time of year!

As a note of clarification, although the name of the pie is "key lime", you can most definitely make it with regular large limes. In my neck of the woods, it is rather hard to come by key limes, so "slight" substitutions have to be made when necessary. :) I assure you, although the taste may not be exactly the same as the original "key lime pie", it is not compromised one little bit by the use of regular limes. You will just have to trust me on this one. :) Now, go ahead and make it, so you can see what I am talking about!

Ingredients

Crust:
  • 1-1/2 packed cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs (about 12 cracker rectangles)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

  • Filling
  • 1 tbsp (heaping) lime zest
  • ½ cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

For the crust:
Crush crackers in a food processor or Ziploc bag. Pour them into a bowl and stir in sugar and melted butter. Press into a pie pan and bake for 5 minutes or until golden and set. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly. (Alternatively, as I did in this case since I was pressed for time, use a ready-made, store-bought graham cracker crust: it's not exactly the same, but works well when you are in a pinch.)

For the filling:
Mix lime zest, lime juice, and egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Add in condensed milk and mix on high until smooth and thick. Pour mixture into crust and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from oven, allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour—more if possible.
Serve with sweetened whipped cream and more grated lime zest- it makes for a great presentation and adds an extra luscious level of creaminess and super yumminess. :) Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from the Pioneer Woman's Key Lime Pie recipe

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

This beautiful festive cranberry upside down cake is the ideal dessert for this holiday season. The fresh cranberries add delicious tartness balanced wonderfully with the caramel glaze and the rich, buttery taste of the cake. A great alternative to pumpkin desserts (which my family happens to hate :). 


Topping:
5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) (70 grams) unsalted butter
2/3 cup (140 grams) light brown sugar
8 ounces (2 1/4 cups) (227 grams) fresh cranberries

Cake Batter:
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons (7 grams) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (or lemon juice)

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Butter a 9 inch (23 cm) round cake pan.

Topping: Place the butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Continue cooking for a few more minutes until the sugar starts to brown (caramelize). Then remove from heat, and pour into your prepared cake pan. Sprinkle evenly with the fresh cranberries.

Cake Batter: In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat in the vanilla extract. Add the egg yolks and beat until incorporated. Add the flour mixture (in three additions), alternately with the milk (in two additions), ending with the dry ingredients. 
 
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar just until the whites hold a firm peak. With a large spatula gently fold the beaten egg whites into the cake batter in two additions. Pour the batter into the cake pan, smoothing the top. Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the top of the cake has browned and it just starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 10-15 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan and then invert the cake onto your serving plate. 

This cake is best served shortly after baking, while it's still warm. But leftovers can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for a few days. Reheat.

Makes about 8-10 servings.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Apple Cinnamon Cake

When I saw this recipe posted on Facebook, I immediately thought, "This is perfect, I am sooo making it!". My son is the ultimate apple fan, eating an average of 3-4-5 apples each day, so apples are a staple in our kitchen. Plus, at this time of year, they are delicious! Whipping the cake together was a snap- it is a true one-bowl recipe. My cinnamon-loving family absolutely loved it! It makes a definite cinnamon statement and it's also very moist and full of apple flavor.


Ingredients:
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
6 medium apples (I used Red Delicious because this is what I had on hand)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda




Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, cinnamon and oil. Peel and slice the apples and add to mixture in bowl (coating as you go to keep apples from turning brown.) Mix together the baking soda and flour and add to the ingredients in the bowl. Mix well (best with a fork) until all of the flour is absorbed by the wet ingredients. Pour mixture into a greased one 9x13" or two 9″ round pans. Bake for approximately 55-60 minutes in 9x13" pan or about 30-35 minutes in 9" round pans, or until cake tests done. Cool on racks. Slice and enjoy! :)



Note: The batter for this cake is very dense (it initially freaked me out a little bit) but the apples release a lot of moisture during baking and it actually turns out really moist and utterly delicious!


Original recipe re-posted on Facebook: http://honeytreebuzz.com

Friday, October 18, 2013

Urban Legend Cookies

The recipe for these yummy cookies came from my new favorite cook book: "All American Desserts, 400 Star-Spangled, Razzle-Dazzle Recipes for America's Best Loved Desserts" by Judith M. Fertig. The list of recipes I want to make from this gem of a book is pretty much long enough to last me at least a whole year! Great book!

The name of these cookies intrigued me and a glance at the ingredients sealed the deal: if it has oats, chocolate chips and nuts, I am in! And so is my family! So, in the oven they went, and in our tummies... :) Let me just say this- they didn't hang around for too long in our house. :)
It is a really excellent cross between oatmeal cookies and chocolate chip cookies that I am sure I will be making again and again. So, here is the recipe:

Urban Legend Cookies


Ingredients

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
One 12-ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips
One 4-ounce milk chocolate candy bar, coarsely grated
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans


Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Put the rolled oats in the blender or food processor and process to a fine powder. Measure 2 1/2 cups and set aside, and discard the rest (or save for a later use). 

2. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars together in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Beat in the flour, processed oats, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and continue beating until you have a thick, well-blended dough. Stir in the chocolate chips, grated chocolate, and chopped nuts. Pinch off about 1 tbsp of dough at a time and roll into a ball. Place the balls on an ungreased baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. 

3. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Store in an airtight container.


Recipe courtesy: "All American Desserts, 400 Star-Spangled, Razzle-Dazzle Recipes for America's Best Loved Desserts" by Judith M. Fertig

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Scrumptious Nutella Gelato

If you are a huge fan of Nutella (like me), you will absolutely love this gelato! It is rich, creamy, hazelnutty, chocolatey, and simply scrumptious! I adapted Giada De Laurentiis' recipe by cutting back on the sugar, adding some cocoa powder and slightly increasing the Nutella amount. The end result was out of this world! 


Ingredients:
2 cups whole milk (I used 2% with stellar results)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar + 1/4 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup Nutella
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:
1. Combine 1/4 cup sugar and cocoa powder in a pot or heavy saucepan. Stir in milk and cream. Heat mixture over medium heat stirring occasionally.  

2. In a separate bowl whisk together the egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until thick and pale yellow (about 4 minutes).

3. Once the milk mixture is hot, slowly pour part of it into the egg yolks while whisking. Add the egg mixture back into the pot and heat over medium heat on the stove. Stir constantly until slightly thickened (about 8- 10 minutes) and mixture can coat the back of a wooden spoon.

4. Once the custard has thickened remove from heat and whisk in the 1/2 cup of Nutella and vanilla extract. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard (to prevent a skin from forming) and allow to chill completely in the fridge (preferably overnight).

5. Once chilled, the gelato is ready to be churned. Churn in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions, until it reaches the soft serve stage. I use this ice cream maker: http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart and it generally takes about 25 minutes.

Scoop and enjoy or transfer to a freezer-safe container and allow to firm up in the freezer.

I served mine garnished with chocolate fudge syrup for extra decadence. :) You can also sprinkle with hazelnuts or your garnish of choice. It is yummylicious any way you serve it!

Makes a generous 1 quart.



Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis: http://www.foodnetwork.com

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Orange Dream Ice Cream

With the official beginning of summer and hot days, I no longer look forward to turning the oven on to bake. Instead, my baking obsession passion has shifted into the joy of making homemade ice cream. And what a trip that has been! I have already made at least half a dozen different kinds, honestly having a hard time deciding which I like more. My kids have been thrilled (to say the least :)), and I myself have embarked on yet another wonderful adventure: discovering the world of frozen delights. :) 

Orange Dream Ice Cream

Ingredients:
2 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup half-n-half, cold
1/2 cup orange juice concentrate, thawed
a touch of orange food coloring (optional)

Directions: 
Whisk whipping cream and sugar in a mixing bowl until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Add half-n-half and whisk briefly to incorporate. Mix in orange juice concentrate. Immediately add mixture in the frozen canister of your ice cream machine. Run ice cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions.


This is the ice cream maker I use and am very happy with:
http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-ICE-20-Automatic-2-Quart-Cream

It makes soft-serve ice cream in 20-30 minutes. Then, I transfer the ice cream into a freezer safe air-tight container, cover with parchment paper and freeze. It can store in the freezer for up to a couple of months (though it has never lasted that long at home, so I cannot vouch personally for the taste after two or three months :)). I know it is wonderfully creamy and refreshing for at least a couple of weeks later. :))

Recipe slightly adapted from "Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book" which can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Jerrys-Homemade-Cream-Dessert-Book

Disclaimer: I am in no way being remunerated to advertise for Cuisinart, Ben and Jerry's or Amazon.com. I just happen to like my ice cream maker, the book I took this recipe from, and the above mentioned website. :)



Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bake on!

I saw this on Pinterest and just had to share on my blog here. It so describes me! Whatever happens, whether I am healthy or sick, happy or sad, I bake on! :)))


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Dark Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting


 

My, oh my! This frosting totally blew me away! Let's say, despite the "warnings" about its deliciousness on the site I discovered it, I was just not prepared for this. No, I wasn't.

It was creamy, it was luscious, it was velvety, it was rich, it was light, it was DIVINE! An what a great combo with the dark chocolate cupcakes I piped it on! Wow!

For the love of all things chocolate, do give this frosting a try! It will not disappoint you!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3-4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1-2 tsp vanilla
1-3 tbsp milk or half-n-half or cream :)


Directions: 
Cream the butter and cream cheese with a mixer.
Add the cocoa and vanilla.
Add the confectioner’s sugar in small batches and blend on low until combined. Scrape down sides with each addition.
Add 1 tablespoon of milk at a time until you get the consistency you desire.
Frost your cake or cupcakes. (I actually filled mine with it too, for a a little extra awesomeness. :)) Enjoy! :) 


Recipe courtesy goes to: http://theshakybaker.com

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Lemon Sugar Cookies

I love this sugar cookie recipe because it does not require butter at room temperature- that is, no pre-planning involved. As long as you have butter in the fridge, you can whip these up in no time- just cut the cold butter in chunks and cream with the sugar! Voila! You've got yourself some pretty good sugar cookies with minimal wait time! What is also great about this recipe is that because of the cold butter, the dough is very easy to roll and cut out and the cookies hold their shape really well with baking. What more can you ask for when sugar cookies are concerned? Well, taste of course- that's why I decided to boost the flavor with some fresh lemon juice and lemon zest and I think this really sealed the deal. The frosting, of course, had to be pink... :)) Just look at these babies:


Of course, since I made them for Teacher Appreciation Week, I had to incorporate a "Thank-you" somewhere. :) Piping it on almost 4 dozen cookies was definitely a labor of love, but my kids' teachers deserve it. :)

Lemon Sugar Cookies:

3 c unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, cold & cut into chunks
1 egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsps freshly squeezed lemon juice
lemon zest of one lemon



Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg, vanilla extract, lemon juice and mix. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl, especially the bottom.

The dough will be crumbly, so knead it together with your hands as you scoop it out of the bowl for rolling.

Roll on a floured surface to about 1/4" to 3/8" thick, and cut into shapes. Place on parchment lined baking sheets. (You may want to freeze the cut out cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before baking- they will hold their shape better). Bake for 10 minutes. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack. Ice with your favorite icing. Since I am not too crazy about the taste of royal icing, I used the following recipe to which I added some lemon juice to carry out the lemon theme, but only vanilla extract would be fine too.

And here are my cookies, packaged for the teachers, along with spring flowers and some thank-you balloons too. :) 


Lemon Frosting:
  • 2-2 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsps fresh lemon juice
  • 3-4 Tbsp milk
  • Coloring if desired
Directions:

Mix all ingredients well and add a little more milk or powdered sugar to get the right consistency for spreading and/or piping.

Recipe for cookies adapted from: bakeat350
Recipe for frosting adapted from: melskitchencafe

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

I have had the recipe for this delicious dessert for more than ten years now. I have made it dozens and dozens of times over these years and never- for some reason- posted it on my blog. Until now, that is. :) Last Sunday we celebrated Orthodox Easter with friends of ours who are Orthodox Christians. This was the dessert I decided to make for this occasion. It is super easy to put together, yet every time I have made it for parties, I have had excellent reviews. This time was no exception: there was only one piece left out of the whole pan- hence, the corner piece is what I had to take a picture of for here. :))

Another great thing about this "salad" dessert is that it is extremely versatile. You can make it with pretty much any kind of fruit, as long as you can find a gelatin to match its flavor. I have made it with raspberries and it is outstanding. I am pretty sure blueberries, cherries, peaches/apricots will be awesome too. It is not overly sweet and the combination of the slightly salty pretzel crust, the tangy cheesecake middle layer and the fruity top layer is  a winner. It could be a little tricky to serve and keep it in neat looking slices- as you can see from the picture below, but nobody complains once they have a bite. :)


Strawberry Pretzel Salad

2 cups crushed pretzels
3/4 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 (8 ounce) carton frozen whipped topping, thawed
2 (3 ounce) packages strawberry gelatin, such as Jell-O
2 cups boiling water
2 (10 ounce) packages frozen strawberries or 1 lb fresh strawberries, sliced
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F.
Stir together crushed pretzels, melted butter and 3 tablespoons sugar; mix well and press mixture into bottom of 9x13-inch baking dish. Bake 8-10 minutes, until set; set aside to cool. 
In a large mixing bowl cream together cream cheese and sugar. Fold in whipped topping. Spread mixture onto cooled crust, making sure to create a "seal" all the way to the sides of the pan as you don't want the gelatin layer to seep in to the pretzel crust and make it soggy.
Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Stir in frozen strawberries and allow to set briefly. When mixture is about the consistency of egg whites, pour carefully and spread over cream cheese layer.

Refrigerate until set, at least a few hours or overnight. Enjoy!

Special thanks for this outstanding recipe to my sister-in-law, Kathryn- all the way from Texas! :)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Ultimate Banana Muffins


So, here I was the other day- on my day off!, feeling nearly on my death bed with yet another sinus/throat/ear infection within two weeks when despite my inability to stand on my feet, I somehow managed the strength to get up and bake muffins... Yeah, I know, I am crazy, but there was so much lying around I could do in one day and I had simply reached my limit. Plus, I just couldn't sit still, knowing that there was a whole bunch of perfectly ripe bananas waiting- just pleading- to be baked into delicious muffins.I  just had to save those babies! And what a save that was! Glorious transformation, if you will. Another save from my favorite blogging mom of five, Mel over at Mel's kitchen cafe. I adapted a recipe for sour cream banana bread I found on her blog that produced the moistest, most delicious banana muffins I have ever baked in my life. Ever. I was smitten. I baked one batch- adding flax seed, walnuts and cinnamon to her recipe. The muffins were pretty much gone within an hour. And no, I wasn't the only one eating them (although I have to admit I did have 3-4 of the minis myself,  averting eyes bashfully... :)) So, as I had more babies, uhm, bananas to save, I decided to quickly whip up another batch- they are so easy! At this point any memory of ear/nose/throat infections is completely gone, all I can think of is my glorious banana muffins and reveling in the success of my latest baking adventure. The healing power of baking! Second batch was part plain, part with mini chocolate chips (I used bittersweet Ghirardeli chocolate). I had no more sour cream, so I substituted with plain yogurt- major hit! I couldn't tell the difference between the two batches- both in taste and texture. My family and co-workers were all in raptures over these muffins. I am super-mom in my kids' eyes now. :) Boy, am I looking forward to more ripe bananas!


Ultimate Banana Muffins
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 ripe bananas)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, or plain yogurt, or Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1 tbsp flaxseed meal (optional)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional but highly recommended :)
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)
Directions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pans with 16 paper liners or simply spray with Pam. Ultimately, if making banana bread, grease and flour bottom only of a loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together sugar and oil. Add eggs, bananas, sour cream and vanilla; blend well. Add flour, flaxseed meal, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in nuts and/or chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan(s).

  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes (or 50-60 minutes for a loaf pan) or until toothpick inserted in center comes clean. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pan. Cool completely.

    Makes about 16 regular size muffins; or 42 mini muffins; or 12 regular muffins and 12 minis; or 1 loaf. For mini muffins, adjust baking time to 14 minutes.

    Recipe adapted from: http://www.melskitchencafe.com

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sugar Gems


I am thrilled to present to you this great gem of a recipe from one of my new favorite food blogs: Mel's kitchen cafe. I love this lady (although my thighs should probably hate her... LOL)! There are so many terrific recipes on her website that I have been drooling over, I am literally dreaming of them at night- no kidding!

So, after much deliberation on what to bake last week (oh, the choices!), I narrowed it down to this sugar cookie recipe- it sounded so intriguing! Sure enough, these cookies were incredibly easy to make, yet unbelievably yummy! I love sugar cookies but am not always in the mood for rolling dough and cutting out shapes. These sugar cookies are exactly what they are called- gems! Delicious with minimal effort- just roll into little balls and flatten with a glass! They are terrific to eat just like that, with no icing on them (and I did just that, as soon as the first batch was out of the oven- mmm, melt in your mouth good!!).

They did come with their own recipe for icing though and I have to admit I was a little skeptical about it, as it was with oil, not butter and I had never heard of such an icing before in my life. However, it was actually a very pleasant surprise. The only thing I would change next time I make the icing is to add some food coloring to it, as the natural color is not pure white (I think the oil and the vanilla extract contributed to the off-white tint and made it look more like maple icing). The sprinkles more than made up for it though. :) Everybody who tried the cookies, loved them (except for my husband but that’s not saying much as he just doesn’t care for sugar cookies at all- I don’t know what’s wrong with him but I have decided to keep him anyway!:). My son, on the other hand, ate 8 of them at one sitting- not with my permission either! :) My little Lizzie, the sharing an caring soul that she is, saw me decorating them and pleaded with me to take some to her preschool class on the following day. So, her classmates and teachers got to sample these sugar gems too. And from what I heard, they were all quite happy.:) I was asked for the recipe too.

 

Sugar Gems

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
Directions: 

Cream together powdered sugar, granulated sugar, oil, and butter. Add eggs and vanilla extract, beating until well incorporated. Add the flour, cream of tartar, salt and baking soda. Mix well. Roll into golf size balls and place on cookie sheets. Flatten with bottom of glass dipped in sugar. Bake at 350F for 12-14 minutes. Cool, frost with sugar gem frosting and decorate with sprinkles of your choice.

Note: The recipe yielded about 80 cookies, so if you do not need that many, you may want to consider halving it. In my family, the huge yield was not a problem- they were literally gone in two days, even with no help from Daddy! :)))


Sugar Gem Frosting:
  • 2-2 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 tsp flavoring (almond, vanilla, coconut, etc.)
  • 3-4 Tbsp milk
  • Food coloring (if desired- I personally recommend it)

    Directions:
    Mix all ingredients well and add a little more milk or powdered sugar to get the desired consistency.
Recipe courtesy: melskitchencafe.com

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Double Dark Chocolate Mocha Cake

Last week, I was asked to make a cake for a farewell sort-of party. The retiring person was a big fan of any and all kinds of cake, so I was given the freedom to choose whatever I wanted to make. I was thrilled! :) I decided to bake a dark chocolate mocha cake (which is one of my personal favorite cakes) but for the filling and the frosting I wanted to try something new and different. So, I chose a chocolate cream cheese frosting for the filling and the base layer of frosting and a mocha frosting for the basket weave and the decorations on top. It worked out pretty successfully with the two shades of brown in the two frostings and the flavor combination was to die for! The lady who took it to the party said that there wasn't a single crumb left and that the cake was "amazing". That's what I like to hear! :) So, I am sharing the recipe with you, as it received such rave reviews.


Dark Chocolate Mocha Cake

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsps baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot coffee

    Directions:
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two 8-inch round cake pans – Line with parchment, then butter and flour the pans (or use “PAM for Baking”).

    1. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.
    2. In another bowl or large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Gently whisk.
    3. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer on the lowest setting, add the coffee and stir just to combine – scrape up from the bottom to make sure all the flour is incorporated. Batter will be very thin and runny- don't worry!
    4. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack to complete cooling.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting/Filling
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp chocolate syrup
  • 1-2 Tbsp milk

    Directions:
    Beat butter and cream cheese for 3-5 minutes, until fluffy. Bean in powdered sugar, cocoa powder, chocolate syrup and 1 Tbsp milk. Beat for an additional 3-5 minutes, adding more milk to get desired consistency.
    I used this frosting to fill the cake with and to do the crumb coating on the sides and cover the top.

Mocha Frosting
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee powder
  • 2 tbsp boiling water
  • 3-oz unsweetened or dark chocolate (I used Ghirardelli's bittersweet), chopped
  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar

Directions: 
In a medium sized, microwave-safe bowl, combine instant coffee and boiling water. Stir to completely dissolve coffee. Add chocolate to the bowl and allow the hot water to begin to melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. If the chocolate does not melt, microwave mixture in 20-30 second intervals until chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool completely.
In a large bowl, beat butter until fluffy and creamy. Beat in vanilla extract and cooled chocolate mixture. Gradually blend in the confectioners’ sugar and beat until frosting is thick and fluffy.
I used this frosting to pipe the basket weave on the sides and to make the roses for the top of the cake.



Recipes adapted from:
Dark Chocolate Mocha Cake: click here.
Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting: click here.
Mocha Frosting: click here.

Print recipe

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