Monday, October 31, 2011

Candy Corn Cookies


I am NOT a candy corn kind of gal, which is surprising because I love sugar. 

When I first discovered these cookies on Pinterest, I pinned them, but forgot all about them. A few days before Halloween, I came across The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle's blog and caught her version of these sweet cookies. I loved the chocolate touch she added and followed suit. We made them for my daughter's teachers and, needless to say, they went over better than a kid in a candy store.

Super cute and delicious? You can't ask for anymore than that.

Happy Halloween and Happy Baking!

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Disney's 'Ohana Bread Pudding

There are 2 things that drive me crazy about people.

Actually, there are about 1,143 things that drive me crazy about people, but for the sake of this blog, I'll keep it to the two that pertain to this recipe and something that just happened.

The first is when I sell something on Craigslist. 99% of the time, the items I sell are very reasonable and in pristine condition. It grinds me to no end when people try to get my goods for nothing. I was selling a brand new pair of Strawberry Shortcake fleece pajamas - with tags attached, perfect for gift giving as they were thankyouverymuch - for $8. I originally bought them for $17.99, but decided to cut my losses and sell just below half of what I paid since I wasn't going back to that shop I bought them from anytime soon. I had a buyer ask if I would let them go for $3! THREE DOLLARS!?!? Give me a break.

The second is folks is people that don't share recipes. I understand that your Aunt Dottie's 100-year-old soufflé recipe has been the family secret for years, but don't tease me with photos, tell me how delicious it is, let me moan through it, and NOT expect me to ask for the recipe. That's just cruel. In my opinion, recipes are like good advice. They're meant to be shared. Don't be so difficult. I'm not going to sell it and make a million dollars on your recipe...and even if I did, you snooze, you lose. Just kidding. Fortunately, I'm not that kind of person. I'm a lover, not a fighter and it's just not in me to be any other way. 

I first found this recipe online a few years ago. The site I got it from had amazing photos with step by step instructions. What could go wrong? Everything. I was so disappointed. Mine looked nothing like theirs and I'm sure it did not taste the same either. What a waste. Last year, my MIL picked up the cookbook, Delicious Disney, by total coincidence at a garage sale. Guess what was in it? You betcha. This beauty. I did a cartwheel (true story!) When I went back to the site, I realized the author had the posted the incorrect recipe. Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened. I get so annoyed because ingredients are not cheap. Some recipes I make can cost up to $20 when all is said and done.

Anyway, I gave it another shot correctly and we all absolutely moaned through it. We love it and it's the only bread pudding I ever make. Even my gluten-intolerant husband can't resist it. He pays for it the next day, but says it's worth every bite.

You may gain 5 pounds eating this dessert, but I assure, it is worth every swear word you will speak when it comes time to put on those skinny jeans for a night out with the girls. 

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Delicious Disney Cookbook

5 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups whole milk
1 loaf challah bread or egg-style bread (large enough to fill 10 cups)
½ cup crushed, canned pineapple
¼ cup sweetened shredded coconut

Heat oven to 350ºF. In large bowl, whisk eggs, milk, salt, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cut bread in ½-inch cubes. I just tear them.

Add bread, pineapple, and coconut to egg mixture. Grease large baking dish with butter. Add bread custard mix to the greased baking dish. 

**The recipe calls to bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. I have found that it was too long and didn’t give the bread pudding it’s pillowy inside that I love.  After several attempts, I found 40 minutes was perfect.  

Remove from oven. Let stand 5 minutes.

1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup corn syrup
½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup rum - optional

(If you use the rum, the original recipe also calls for 3 bananas to be sliced, added, and flambéed along with the sauce. This creates a sort of Bananas Foster sauce. I make this without both (and prefer it) and it is still - OMG delicious!) 

In a sauce pan, combine dark brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and half of the heavy cream. Using high heat; bring to a rolling boil. Allow mixture to boil 10 minutes and add remaining heavy cream. Let it boil additional minute. Add rum (if using) and vanilla extract. 

If you want to use the bananas, rum, and flambé the sauce, here are the instructions to do so. Amaze your friends and family! I would, but knowing me, I would burn the house down!

Carefully flambé the pan using a long stemmed lighter. Let boil until the flame goes out. Reduce to a simmer and stir with a high heat spatula.

Peel and slice bananas; add them to the caramel sauce. Remove the caramel from the heat and set aside. Place scoop of ice cream on top each portion of bread pudding.

Yields: About 12-14 servings.
Happy Baking!

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies with Vanilla Chai Buttercream

It has been 2½ months since I blogged. I know. I'm totally hanging my head in shame, but I can explain. 

First, our best camera broke. 

My husband and I seriously have the WORST luck with technology. You name it - VCR's, DVD players, stereos, cell phones, and more importantly, cameras. They just seem to break. It's frustrating. Our kids have 6 cameras in their toy box - all of which were working at one time. Buying another camera wasn't in the budget when we really need a new roof. The camera we were making do with takes mediocre & grainy photos, so we resorted to taking photos with film for awhile. I know, right? What's film? I can't believe they actually still develop film. Luckily and thankfully for us, they do. 

We finally went out last week and bought one before my baby boy's first birthday. I wasn't risking his special day to a crappy camera or film. I've gotten spoiled with digital and he deserves it.

Aside from being absent photo wise, we've also had a very busy summer and time just got away from me. 

So, I thought I better get cracking. What does one blog after such an absence and just in time for Fall? 

Something with pumpkin. What else?

I'm really sad to see the my flip-flop weather go, but there is nothing like that crisp weather, watching the leaves change colors, and pulling sweaters out of their summer hibernation to officially kick off the baking season.

I'm so giddy with joy I could almost wet myself. 



2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste


1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Preheat oven to 350º. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves; set aside. 

In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together sugar and butter until fluffy. Add in egg and vanilla and beat until well blended. Add pumpkin.

Slowly incorporate wet and dry ingredients together. 

Using a small ice cream scoop with a retractable mechanism, drop dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. 

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a couple minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble the whoopie pies:

When the cookies have cooled completely, place a dollop of filling on the flat side of half of the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies, pressing down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edge of the cookies. Add sprinkles if desired.

Yields: About 20 Whoopie Pies.

Happy Baking!

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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gluten-Free Chocolate-Cardamom Cupcakes

I love the series Cupcakes Wars on the Food Network. To watch the emotions and ingredients fly all over the kitchen is pure entertainment to me. I especially love that it doesn't matter what cupcakes are the contestants specialty, there no cupcake discrimination and all are welcome.

When the episode aired with Hollis Wilder and her Gluten-Free Chocolate-Cardamom Cupcake, I was all over these, especially since my husband was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance a few weeks ago. I am not a fan of gluten-free baked goods, but I've gotta tell you, these are AMAZING. Like amazing. My mother-in-law, who is also suffers from a gluten allergy, and I ate 2 each as soon as they came out of the oven. We pretty much moaned through them in between huffing the heat away.

Gluten-free or not, these are a must try. 

You will moan through them too.

Recipe adapted from Hollis Wilder of Sweet! by Good Golly Miss Holly Bakery

*This recipe is meant for the cupcakes to be mini, however, I'm a go big or go home kind of gal in the kitchen, so I modified the recipe to a smaller scale and got about 18 regular sized cupcakes. I also found the directions confusing, so I hooked you up. God love the novice could have been a disaster.

¼ cup bittersweet chocolate - use a good quality chocolate if possible
¼ cup boiling water
3 eggs, separated - SAVE THE YOLKS! You will need them.
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup superfine sugar, divided (If you don't have superfine sugar, whiz granulated sugar in a food processor for 30-45 seconds).
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup rice flour 
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup buttermilk
1 cup Chocolate-Cardamom Ganache

To make the Chocolate-Cardamom Ganache:

½ teaspoon cardamom (I used a full teaspoon, but I scaled it to coincide with the rest of the recipe)
½ cup chopped bittersweet chocolate - again, use a good quality chocolate
½ cup heavy cream

Place the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Bring the cream and cardamom just to a simmer over medium-high heat; pour the mixture over the chocolate. Let stand, without stirring, until cool. Once cooled, stir until incorporated. Do not over stir.

Preheat oven to 325º F. Line cupcake pans with liners.

Melt the chocolate IN the boiling water and set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy and stiff but not dry. Add ¼ cup sugar and beat until just incorporated; set aside. 

In another bowl, cream the butter with remaining ¾ cups sugar and vanilla on medium speed until fluffy. Add the egg yolks and beat well. Blend in the melted chocolate.

In a bowl, sift together the rice flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the chocolate mixture, beating after each addition until smooth.

Fold in the Chocolate-Cardamom Ganache. Fold in the beaten whites.

Fill the cupcake liners halfway and bake for 23-25 minutes.

Yield: About 18 cupcakes
Happy Baking!

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Ham & Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins

I work with children for a living. Although I LOVE my job and the fact that all my co-workers are under the age of 5, meal times can be pretty stressful. I have come across more children that are picky eaters than not since working in my field. Where I come from, if you are not a foodie, there is something wrong with you. This goes for kids and adults alike.

Since kids need variety, just as adults do, I've had to become creative in the kitchen. I make a point to hide oodles of goodness in my kids food at every meal. They think they're eating muffins, but they are really devouring a good chunk of their daily nutrition.

I came across this muffin recipe when we were in North Carolina via New York en route to Florida in a Dallas newspaper. Take a moment to digest that. I ripped it out and saved it for a time I knew I would be desperate.

Well, desperation came knocking on the door this summer. Aside from the usual picky suspects, my daughter's eating habits have gone down the toilet since school let out and my son will eat anything within his grasp, I want to make it count.

My daughter calls them pizza muffins.

I call them a lifesaver.

Recipe adapted & slightly modified from The Dallas Morning News Newspaper

3 cups all purpose or whole wheat flour (or a combination of both)
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or chili powder
4 tablespoons flax seeds
3 large eggs
cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup thinly sliced scallions (I used fresh chives in this recipe, but you can also use a finely diced medium onion and toss it in)
1 cup diced ham
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
½ cup finely diced red bell pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray or use cupcake liners. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pepper, salt, cayenne pepper/chili powder, and flax seeds.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and butter.  Stir in the scallions/chives/onion, ham, cheese, and bell pepper.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just moistened.  

Scoop the batter into prepared pan (heaping ¼ cup each for unlined muffin pan or scant ¼ cup each for lined.

Bake the muffins for 20 minutes or until the tops are browned. Let the muffins cool in pan for 15 minutes then loosen the edges with a knife (if necessary). Transfer muffins to cooling rack. Serve warm.

Yields: 12 yummy muffins

Happy Baking!

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Eton Mess

Wikipedia's definition of Eton Mess is a traditional English dessert consisting of a mixture of strawberries, pieces of meringue, and cream. It is often served at Eton  College's annual cricket match against the students of Winchester College.

My definition of Eton Mess is a delectable English treat that consists of delicious, fluffy, marshmallowy clouds stacked on sweet, light, feathery snowflakes and intertwined with juicy, red strawberries that desire to be enjoyed with a magical harp playing softly while cherubs with the face of John Krasinski dance half naked around me, throwing rose petals, sunbeams, and sprinkled covered wishes my way.

This is seriously good stuff and the perfect dessert on a summer day. Although there is some debate as to whether a banana or strawberry should be used (apparently the creator of this dish used bananas as the fruit of choice), I decided to go with the strawberries and throw in a blueberry sauce. 

I'm such a rebel.

Adapted from The Joy of Baking

3 egg whites at room temperature
¾ cup superfine sugar (if you don't have superfine sugar, simply take granulated white sugar and process it for about 30-60 seconds in a food processor)
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 200º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Beat egg whites with mixer until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat the whites until they hold soft peaks. Add sugar, a little at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. Beat in the vanilla extract.  

Note: The meringue is done when it holds stiff peaks and when you rub a little between your thumb and index finger it does not feel gritty. If it feels gritty the sugar has not fully dissolved so keep beating until it feels smooth between your fingers.

Transfer the meringue to a pastry bag. I used a ziploc bag and a star tip to pretty it up a bit, but you don't need a bag or tip at all; you can use 2 spoons. Dollop onto prepared sheets. 

Bake the meringues for approximately 1½ to 1¾ hours, rotating the baking sheet from front to back (about half way through) to ensure even baking. The meringues are done when they are pale in color and fairly crisp. (The meringues will release easily from the parchment paper.)

Leave the meringues in the oven with door cracked to finish drying several hours or overnight. They can be covered and stored at room temperature for several days. 
Blueberry Sauce:

A pint of blueberries
3 tablespoons sugar
½ cup water
2 tablespoons orange juice

Place ingredients over stove and bring to a boil for about 7 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes. Be sure to de-stem and take out any wonky blueberries before placing on stove.

To assemble:
Start with a few meringues at the bottom of dish you will be using and begin the layering process of meringue, fruit, whipped cream, and blueberry sauce. Serve immediately.

Enjoy and Happy Baking!

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Strawberry Pretzel Squares

My church threw the best BBQs growing up. We were only a small congregation of about 75 people, but the food that would arrive was that of a 1000 people. Aside from all the usual hot dogs, burgers, potato & macaroni salads, the ladies of the church knew how to bake.

There was always an array of cakes, cookies, pies, and tarts. A staple dessert at the BBQ (and one of my most favorite summertime desserts to this day) is Strawberry Pretzel Squares. We also knew it as Strawberry Pretzel Salad.

When I was 11 years old, the only thing that stood between me and this gorgeous dessert was a scrawny boy named Keith. His mom made it and he KNEW how much I loved it. He was a year older than me and wouldn't let me near it until I kissed him. Boys were so icky until I was about 14, so on a scale of 1 to 10 on the Gross-o-meter, he was a 12. Of course, our Moms thought it was so cute. Gag.

I looked him up on facebook a few years ago. I love facebook just for that reason alone. I'm a total lurker. I don't necessarily want to befriend old acquaintances per se, I just like to see how kind Father Time is to people I grew up with.

Time served Keith very well. Although I don't know how many women Keith has held ransom to this dessert since, but to be fair, it is a dessert worthy of a kiss.

No matter how scrawny the boy is.


Recipe adapted from my Mom

2 cups crushed pretzels
¾ cup melted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1 block (8 ounces) cream cheese
¾ cup sugar
1½ cups whipped topping, I used Cool Whip
2 packages strawberry gelatin, I used Jello Brand
1 pound fresh strawberries
(The original recipe actually calls for 2 packages of 10 ounce frozen strawberries. I LOVE fresh fruit and will use it if it's available. This step is delicious either way)

Note: This is a dessert that requires a few steps until completion. For best results, do not use shortcuts and allow for cooling and chilling times as indicated.

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Using a blender, chop pretzels into very small pieces. 

In a bowl, combine pretzels, butter, and 3 tablespoons of sugar.

Press into a 9 x13-inch pan and bake for 8 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool. 

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar. Fold in the whipped topping, and spread over the cooled crust.

Refrigerate until well chilled or about 3 hours.

In a small bowl, prepare gelatin as instructed on box. Once prepared, place in fridge and chill until slightly thickened. (When I mean thickened, it will have a 'ripple' when jiggled.)

Pour gelatin over cream cheese mixture and add fresh strawberries on top, pushing down gently until submerged. I add the strawberries after so they are evenly distributed across the dish. If using frozen strawberries, add them TO the gelatin and then pour over cream cheese mixture. 

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight for best results.

Happy Baking!

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