Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Every now and then, I get a hankering for something different. Every blue moon, I will crave something I've never had before.

My blue moon has risen.

Since my husband is British, I am American, and we live in Canada, I decided to skip what I know, ignore my cookbooks on the shelf and hit the internet for inspriation. The first stop on the information superhighway? Martha Stewart. She has made every sweet and savory menu item known to man; she's the best place to start.

After searching her site, I came across Lamingtons. I never heard of them, but they sounded interesting. As I did some more digging, I discovered Lamingtons are native of Australia. Bingo. (Or should I say Dingo!?) Because it would only be appropriate to do as they do in Rome, I wanted to delve further for an authentic Australian Lamingtons recipe. No offense Martha.

Unfortunately, all the Australian websites I visited required the use of day old/ready made/box cake. This only increased my determination to find a genuine recipe. After about 15 minutes of even more searching, I finally found this recipe that seemed to tick all the boxes on my checklist. With a few Aussies raving about how incredible they are and how this recipe took them back to their childhood, I couldn't go wrong. 

Wrong was the last place I went. These are AMAZING. After eating a few, I'm not surprised the Aussies have a national Lambingtons Day. These little cakes are definitely something to be celebrated.

At least the recipe doesn't require Vegemite. *shudder*

Recipe adapted from Aussie chef Syrie Wongkaew 

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
½ cup butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup milk

2 cups confectioners sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3 tablespoons butter
½ cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly butter an 8 inch square cake pan; set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after adding each egg. Add vanilla to the mixture and mix well to combine.

Use a spatula to alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, starting and finishing with the flour.

Spread the batter into the cake pan, making sure it's evenly spread.

Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. Test the center of the cake with a toothpick and make sure it comes out clean. Cool the cake in pan for about 5 minutes and  invert onto a wire rack to cool.

Once the cake has cooled cut it into squares of a desired size. I opted for the two-bite size.

Place them in an airtight container. Pop the container in the fridge for at least 2 hours or even overnight. This is a crucial part as it helps the cake from crumbling once it comes in contact with the chocolate icing.

For an extra special treat, you can also fill the Lamingtons. To do so, cut a cake square in half and generously spread strawberry jam, finishing off by sandwiching together. This must be done before applying the icing.

Now for the icing.

Place icing sugar, cocoa powder, butter and milk in a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.

Stir the mixture until it is smooth, but still a bit thick. You don't want the liquid to get too thin otherwise the sponge cake won't absorb the coating.
Working quickly, dip cake into chocolate and coat on all sides. 

Shake off excess chocolate and gently roll coated cake in coconut.

Lamingtons can be stored in an airtight container for 5 days.

Yield: 25 two-bite pieces.

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Georgia Cookie Candy

After two glorious weeks basking in the Florida sunshine, we arrived home a few days ago to bone chilling temperatures. Mind you, 26ºF really isn’t that cold when one has been used to it for a few months now, but coming from 88º weather, one can forget what cold is like really quick. If there is an upside to dealing with the less than favorable weather, it would be the excuse to stretch the comfort foods out a little longer. 

My inspiration for making these cookies was a layover we had in Atlanta on the way to Orlando. My husband has a very soft spot for the city of Atlanta for a few reasons, so the Hartsfield Airport shops for him are like watching a kid in a candy store. As he was browsing and slightly salivating, I did as well - minus the salivating part - and came across a cookbook, A Taste of Georgia. As I skimmed the cookbook, I knew I had to have it in my arsenal of cookbooks.

As we were leaving the shop, I passed an issue of Paula Deen's magazine. She is the queen of southern cooking - and my kind of lady. Butter smothered on everything, full fat ingredients, Oh yeah. As I flipped through it, 18 of those annoying subscription cards floated out. As I picked them up, (yes, I pick them up) I noticed these cookies on one of them. They looked very interesting and right up my alley. I took one of those cards and decided to use it for a bookmark during my holiday reading, only so I could remember to make these cookies in the near future.

Welcome to the future. I thought today was as good as any to give these a whirl. They are incredibly simple to make and have the all important moan factor.

Don't worry if the words, 'Oh my ya'll!' fly out of your mouth while eating them.

I got used to it after the 3rd piece.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Paula Deen's original recipe

Just a note: With this recipe, I recommend using the best chocolate and peanut butter ingredients you can afford. You can and will really taste the difference!

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup crunchy peanut butter - If you don't have crunchy peanut butter, add ¼ cup chopped peanuts to the mix. The crunchy helps awesomeize these!
3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
1½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
1½ cups crispy rice cereal

Line a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan with foil.

Combine the butter, peanut butter, and and graham cracker crumbs in a food processor. I used a hand mixer to see if a food processor was really necessary. It isn't and worked just as well. I also didn't have crunchy peanut butter on hand, so I added ¼ cup chopped peanuts to the mix.

Add sugar and mix well. This is what it will look like using a hand mixer.

Press into the foil-lined pan using your hands or a spatula.

Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler over simmering water.  You can microwave the chocolate as well, but I find that the chocolate can seize up on you really quick, so it's safer to use the double broiler method.

Pour the cereal over the peanut butter mixture. Using a spatula, spread chocolate over cereal, making sure to cover bars in it's entirety.

Chill for several hours. When ready to serve, allow the candy to come to room temperature before cutting into pieces.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Yield: 36-40 pieces.

Happy Baking!

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Butterscotch Spice Cookies

I went to the grocery store a few weeks ago to pick up a few necessities - as I do.

As I walked down the baking aisle, I noticed that cake mix was on sale for 87¢. I don't make cake from a box often, but that's only because I love the bonding time I get with my little girl in the kitchen and will prolong it for as long as I can. She gets so excited when I ask if she wants to help Mama bake some goodies - especially when they're for Daddy. With that being said, there is nothing wrong with using a box cake mix and don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise!

I decided to buy a couple of boxes; German Chocolate and Spice Cake. 87¢ seemed like such a bargain and these are also the 2 flavors I probably wouldn't attempt to make from scratch anyway, so score for me! When I got home and unloaded my groceries, I noticed I already had 2 boxes of spice cake mix in the cupboard. Super.

Fast forward to a few days ago. I was going through my cookbooks, looking for a recipe my girlfriend asked about. To get to this specific cookbook, I had to pull out a folder I keep all the loose recipe clippings I cut from the back of food packages, in-store recipes, or steal from magazines. Yeah. I admit it. I steal pages from magazines.

Once I found what I was looking for, I flipped though the folder and came across this recipe for Butterscotch Spice Cookies. As I read through it, the words '1 package spice cake mix'  jumped out of the page and was immediately highlighted with a million beams of sunshine rays behind it. I think I may heard an angel or two singing during that moment as well, but I can't confirm.

While I know I would appreciate these cookies even more in the Fall, they were pretty good considering. After all, spice is the variety of life.

Or something like that.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Duncan Hines

1 box spice cake mix - I used Betty Crocker. Sorry Duncan.
2 large eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup butterscotch chips
½ cup chocolate chips
1 cup crispy rice cereal

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Combine cake mix, eggs, oil and vanilla extract in large bowl. Beat at low speed with electric mixer until blended.

Stir in butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, and crispy rice cereal.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until set. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheets. Remove to cooling racks. Cool completely. Store in airtight container.

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies.

Happy Baking!

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

World Vision

Logo courtesy of

If you can read this, you are blessed. 

Seriously, you are. 

It's amazing how many people take basic things like water, food, and clothing - even reading and writing for granted.

When I was 20, I had the opportunity to travel to Peru for the Thanksgiving holiday to spend time with my aunt and uncle, who were missionaries there. My uncle was director of a bible school 500 miles north of the country’s capital in a town called Chiclayo. I had been so excited, collecting clothing, shoes, and the like to take with me on my journey, not thinking of too much else.

When I arrived, I was not prepared for what I was about to see. The country itself is absolutely breathtaking; the living conditions were anything but. I almost felt deflated. This is not what I had it built up in my mind. The poverty-like conditions were almost too unbearable. The hardest hit for me was little children living in filth, begging on the street, asking for food.

It was the first time I truly realized just how lucky and blessed I was. I also knew my life would never be the same.

6 months later, I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to go back, this time taking my Mom. It was so nice to see the same friendly faces I had gotten to know the first time I was there, but the nagging heartache soon returned. It seemed so unfair that I lived in a place with such abundance while these lovely people lived with just the clothing on their backs and a few scraps.

However, one thing remained etched in the back of my mind: Their outlook on life. MANY had nothing, but were happy to be alive. My heart went out to that country...and a piece still remains there.

In 2006, just before our daughter was born, my husband and I sponsored a child through World Vision. A three-year-old little Peruvian boy named Kevin. His information card had stated he lived in one of the poorest parts of the country. I had seen some shocking places while I visited, so I could only imagine his surroundings.

I collapsed into a pool of tears when we received a letter from little Kevin’s Mother, praising God and thanking us that we had chosen him. They were in dire straits and just didn’t know to do. She said that her prayers were heard and answered. Wow. How does one get over a statement that powerful? To know that we helped even just a little is a feeling I will never forget.

That was almost 5 years ago and Kevin and his family are doing very well. We get cards, letters, photos and a progress/health report from him and about him. He is now in first grade and loves math.

In 2008, we decided to sponsor another child, this time a little girl. We sifted through the children that needed the most help. Julissa, a gorgeous 9-year-old (almost 10) from El Salvador chose us. Sponsoring a girl was important to me because I wanted the chance to help educate her about her body and the changes she would inevitably go through. With HIV, Aids, and widespread disease, knowledge is power.

Julissa will be 13 in July and is doing incredibly well. She personally writes to us and sends drawings, and like Kevin, we get progress and health reports. She is such a lovely little girl, doing well in school and her family is very grateful for everything we have done.

We wanted to do more.

In 2009, my husband decided to throw his first annual charity soccer game. He recruited 40 people, rented a soccer pitch, and charged a small fee to play. All monies he earned went directly to World Vision. It was a huge success. Once word got out, he had so many people asking to be put on the list for the following year. Local companies soon got wind of it and donated amazing prizes. Umbro has donated all the shirts, balls and whistles for them to play in since the first tournament. It has gotten bigger every year with more involvement and amazing prizes. Twitter and facebook are a wonderful thing to spread the word!

He just completed his third annual charity soccer game, earning over $2,100 for World Vision. I am so proud of what he has accomplished for them thus far - and I know it will only get better. 

If you have $35 a month, I implore you to think about sponsoring a child. You will change the life a precious child forever.

It will also change you in ways you never thought possible.  

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Monday, February 28, 2011

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Cookies

Once a month, it's imperative that I go through my pantry. You see, I am an impulsive food shopper. I follow my shopping list to a tee, but when it comes to sale items, especially baking supplies or candy, all bets are off. I will buy them, throw them into the cupboard when I get home and forget all about it until I start the process all over again the following month. Ultimately what happens is the need to become creative and use up the items before they start growing worms or become a science experiment. It's not a sale if it ends up in the trash.

This month, I found a delicious bag of chocolate covered pretzels stashed in the dark corner of the pantry. I was surprised they were up there only because they are usually gone on the ride home from the grocery store. As I was debating whether to toss them or just eat them, I compromised and decided to use make cookies with them.

To make a long story short...putting them into the cookie batter was the best decision I made. From this moment on, these are my new go-to cookie when I'm hankering for something sweet, something salty, something crunchy or just craving a damn good cookie.

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Cookies.

A damn good cookie.


2¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cocoa
1 cup butter
½ cup peanut butter
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups coarsely chopped chocolate covered pretzels
1 cup chocolate chunks or chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa in small bowl; set aside.

Beat butter, brown sugar until creamy. Add peanut butter and vanilla extract in until incorporated. Add egg and mix well.

Gradually beat in flour mixture and mix until everything had been well blended. With a spoon, stir in pretzels and chunks/chips.

Try not to eat the batter! 

Drop by rounded tablespoon onto baking sheets. Using an ice cream scoop is super helpful!

Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove and cool completely.

Yield: 3½ dozen cookies.

Happy Baking!

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Cheesecake Cookie Cups

My BFF is going away on a much needed romantical getaway with her boyfriend this weekend. It's been a long time coming for the two, so naturally, I am super excited for them.

Since my last blog, I'm on a mission to find creative ways to use the 10,436 Chips Ahoy cookies I now have hanging around. In essence, I also wanted to make a nice treat they can take with them to enjoy while snugging by a crackling fire.

Then it hits me. Beth LOVES cheesecake.

One minute later, I get hit with another epiphany. I remembered ripping something out of a magazine when I was visiting Mom over the summer. It was a recipe for Cheesecake Cookie Cups.

The gears in my mind started to turn and, suddenly, it hits me. Since the base of a cheesecake is essentially finely crumbled cookies, the chocolate chip cookies would be a very nice substitute to the usual graham cracker crust - or in this recipe's case, raw chocolate chip cookie dough. Bonus for me since it will give me the same end result - a chocolate chip cookie base!

Yes! Sweet victory! Looks like my BFF and I will both score - just in different ways.

Yeah, get your head out of the gutter. They'll be ice fishing and playing scrabble all weekend. 


12 chocolate chip cookies - I used Chips Ahoy - of course.
1 block cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ can cherry pie filling

Preheat oven to 325ºF.

Paper line 12 muffin cups. Place one chocolate chip cookie in the bottom of the liner.

Beat cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, lemon juice and vanilla extract in medium bowl until smooth.

Pour about 3 tablespoons cream cheese mixture over each cookie in cup.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. 

Top each with level tablespoon (or more if you prefer!) of pie filling. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Yield: 12 cheesecake cups

Happy Baking!

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Blueberry Buckle

I adore blueberries. One of my favorite ways to use them are in a Buckle. Not on a belt silly.

Blueberry Buckle has always a staple dessert at our family's Fourth of July picnics, accompanied with a nice, big blob of vanilla ice cream on the side. Although this recipe has been passed around a gazillion times between family and friends, tweaked this way and that, each individual swearing that theirs is the best, we always stuck to the original, so I'll stick to what I know.

It's a great alternative to muffins and a delicious way to use up those 6 extra pints of blueberries that you may or may not have bought when they were on sale at the supermarket for the great price of 3 pints for $5 before supermarket management decided to poach wallets and raise the price to $3.99 a pint a week later.

So very uncool.


½ cup butter, room temperature
2 cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon lemon peel
2 cups blueberries, preferably fresh, but frozen works fine.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9x9-inch baking dish or pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt; set aside. In another bowl, whisk sour cream, vanilla, and lemon peel together; set aside.

A trick my Home Ec teacher taught me is to coat blueberries in a little flour to avoid sinking to the bottom of the pan.

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat until well incorporated.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat on low speed just until incorporated and then add 1/3 of the sour cream mixture and beat until incorporated. Alternate between the two until everything has combined.

Gently stir in the blueberries. 

Pour mixture into prepared baking pan.

Now for the delicious topping. If I'm honest, this is my favorite part of the cake.


⅓ cup butter, room temperture
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup rolled oats

Mix all ingredients into a bowl. Using a pastry blender or forks, blend until mixture resembles crumbs. You can also rub the mixture between your very clean hands to get the same effect. It's a lot easier and your hands are amazing tools!

Sprinkle on top of cake.

Bake for 45 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream for the ultimate experience.

Happy Baking!

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