With Sweet Dreams and Even Sweeter Days

Monday, January 31, 2011

Tuile Heart Cookies

It's Monday! The weekend is long gone and we're back to another full week.  If any of you know me very well at all, you know I'm not the best morning person out there.  I think it is a great testament therefore of, 1) how much I actually am enjoying school this semester and 2) how much fun I'm having blogging, that I would get up early to post this before I hop on the train for a day of class.

These cookies are not your ooey gooey chocolate chip cookie type (obviously my favorite), but they are still great nonetheless if only in a different way.  They seem like a cookie that would be great with hot chocolate or coffee of tea.  With a super airy texture and a buttery almond taste, they almost melt in your mouth.

Aren't they cute? You can make them into any shape you want, you just need a stencil for whatever shape you choose (remember you can always make your own!).  Reader be warned however, this recipe makes a really small yield, like 6-12 cookies depending on the size.  So if you're making cookies for more than just yourself and maybe one other person, you might want to consider doubling the recipe (which is easy to do!).

So as for me I'm gonna cuddle up with a blanket, a hot tea and one of these puppies in the last few minutes before I leave the house.  I guarantee it will make any Monday morning just a little bit brighter.

In other news this weekend, my Temple friends and I finally got around to exchanging gifts for our Secret Santa (everyone was abroad so a Christmas exchange was put off until now).  My fabulous secret buddy was Dee, who I love with all my heart and who surprised me with adorable spatulas/an adorable cupcake cookbook. 

Dee dee knows the way to my heart is clearly through spatulas.  I am very lucky indeed.

Tuile Heart Cookies
Servings: 6-12 (depending on size of cookie)

1 large egg white
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
pinch of salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with either parchment paper or a baking mat.  Put egg white and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer (or use a hand mixer) fitted with the whisk attachment.  Mix on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Reduce speed to lowest possible and add flour and salt, mixing until just combined.  Add butter, cream, and almond extract and mix for an additional 30 seconds.  Place a stencil on the baking mat.  Using a knife or spatula spread batter in a thin layer over the stencil.  Carefully lift and repeat for other shapes.  Bake until golden brown 7-10 minutes. (If after 10 minutes your cookies are not golden keep checking in two minute increments, the golden color pictured above is what's important to achieve. I think mine took about 11-12 min.)  Lift cookies with a spatula as soon as they come out of the oven and drape over either a rolling pin or the handle of a large whisk to get the signature curved cookie.  Repeat with all cookies, let cool and enjoy.

Recipe adapted from: Martha Stewart's Cookies

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Strawberry Nutella Bites

This Tuesday marks the coming of February, a month that everybody seems to either love or hate with no real space in between.  I happen to love February (surprise, surprise) but not just for Valentines Day, but more because it's a month long excuse to bake things that are pink and red and tell people how much I love them.

So whether you choose to enjoy February or despise it, you can bet your bottom we'll be celebrating all month long over here.  We're starting things off a little bit early with these Nutella Filled Strawberry Bites. If you have never had Nutella before, I recommend shutting your computer and going and getting a jar before we proceed, otherwise I can't be blamed for the pure jealousy that you feel as I talk about it.  (Just saying, I warned ya!)  

Nutella is pure heaven.  I only first tried it a few months ago and I've been hooked ever since.  I have a really hard time baking with it though, because in my opinion it is hard to beat the recipe of jar + spoon + mouth = happiness.  However I figured with a big blob of Nutella in the middle, these bites couldn't possibly be bad.  The food blog that inspired me to make these listed them as cookies, but personally I find the dough much more like shortcake or cobbler dough (either way they are very good). This recipe is perfect if you have a small amount of strawberries leftover in your fridge on the verge of going bad, and really let's be honest, anything with some Nutella on top is going to be divine.  

Even if you're not into the whole Valentine Day scene you should make these.  Either for your sweetheart, or someone special, or even just for you.. because you deserve it!  And then bring me over some, because I deserve it too.  Only kidding.  Kind of.  :)

Strawberry Nutella Bites
Servings: About 12

1 1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter (softened)
7 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp + 1 tsp crushed strawberries
1/2 tsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.  In the bowl of an electric mixer (or with a hand mixer) beat butter and sugar until smooth.  In a small bowl combine crushed strawberries and milk and mix until well distributed.  Put the 3 Tbsp and 1 tsp of the strawberry mixture in the bowl with the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine.  Add the vanilla extract and beat to combine.  With the mixer on the lowest speed add flour until just combined.  Shape dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for an hour.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with either parchment paper or a baking mat.  Roll dough into small balls and use either your thumb or the bottom of a spoon to make an indentation in each one.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through.  When the cookies come out of the oven use a spoon to immediately press in indentations again.  Let cool and fill with Nutella.  Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from: Sinfully Spicy

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Perfect Blondies

I don't know what the weather is like in your neck of the woods, but here in my little town we received almost two feet of snow last night!  And...thundersnow?  I have never in my life heard of thunder snow before and after hearing that a family friend of ours got struck by lightning while shoveling his driveway (thankfully he is ok!), I'm not sure I want to experience it again!  However for me today so much snow = class cancelled, which in my life = baking time!

(my backyard PRE-thundersnow!)

Maybe I took this a step too far calling these "perfect" blondies.  Somehow, "as close to perfect as humanly possible" blondies just didn't seem as catchy to me.  These are just about as basic of a blondie as you can get, but I would never change these.  Oh no.  Dense and chewy, these are my quintessential baked good.  

I first made these blondies with Nick on my 20th birthday weekend when he gave me the cookbook they were in as an early present and suggested we make something together.  And I've loved them so much ever since.  Luckily for me I am giving this batch away, so I'm not tempted to eat the whole pan like usual.  I made sure to test a few for "quality control" of course.  I'd be a terrible giver if I didn't!

So please ignore my un-manicured hand and make these if you're stuck inside on a snowy day.  Your family/friends will love you forever and not force you to shovel snow.  Ok that I can't promise, but they got me off the hook so I figure you've got a chance! :)

Serves: 16

1 cup + 2 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray an 8x8 inch baking pan with baking spray (or butter well) and cover in parchment paper, pressing down so the parchment paper clings to the inside of the pan but still has some overhang.  Combine flour and salt in a bowl and whisk to mix.  Melt butter and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Heat, stirring until all sugar has dissolved and until mixture reaches a bubble but not boil (1 min after sugar dissolves).  Cool mixture for 10 minutes.  Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla to cooled mixture and stir to combine.  Add flour to sugar mixture and stir until just combined.  Pour batter into prepared pan and spread smooth with a spatula or spoon.  Bake about 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.  Cut into 16 squares and enjoy!  

Recipe adapted from: The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Vegan Blueberry Buckle

First things first, let's set the record straight.  I am not a vegan.  I'm not even a vegetarian, and all my baked goods usually run rampant with eggs and dairy.  And cheese.  Don't even get me started on cheese.  I love cheese.  I do have friends though who don't share my love of dairy, and sadly when I bake , can't always partake.

One of these friends is the wonderful Dan Magro, who luckily for him lives out in Los Angeles where supposedly (I've never been so I can't say for sure) vegan restaurants are on every corner.  Not so lucky for his sister Nina (who has been my friend since about the age of 4, and is also vegan) who still lives back here in good old PA, where vegan restaurants and bakeries are all but nonexistent.

(Me and Nina junior year of high school in the play)

When Dan was nice enough to post a link to my blog on his facebook, I thought I'd pay back the favor by finding a really really awesome vegan recipe.  A lot of vegan recipes I've found online though have some really interesting ingredients, which I'm sure are great if you're living on a 100% vegan diet, but for me would be impractical to buy.

Enter this blueberry buckle.  There isn't one ingredient in it that you wouldn't be able to find in an average kitchen. And its so easy.  And beyond delicious.  I'm really glad I got a chance to try this when I probably otherwise would never have.  I really really love it.  So I sent Nina home with her piece (hopefully making her day a tad better), and Dan I'm sorry to say I'll have to eat yours, but most likely with a big glass of milk.  Some things never change. :)

Seriously SO good.

Vegan Blueberry Buckle
Servings: About 12


1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9-inch spring-form pan with baking spray and wrap the outside in foil.  To make topping combine the dry topping ingredients in a small bowl and slowly add the vegetable oil to the mixture.  As you add the oil (1 tablespoon at a time) use your fingers to mix until crumbly.  To make cake combine the dry cake ingredients in a large bowl.  Combine maple syrup, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract in a separate smaller bowl.  Pour the wet cake mixture into the dry cake mixture and mix until just combined.  Fold in the blueberries into the cake mixture and pour into the greased pan.  Spread the mixture out and sprinkle the topping all over it.  Bake in the preheated oven for about 55 min or until a cake tester comes out from the middle cleanly.  Let cool for about 20 minutes in the pan, then release the sides of the spring-form, slice up and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from: What Would Cathy Eat

Monday, January 24, 2011

Powdered Sugar Doughnuts

I have been wanting to make powdered sugar doughnuts for quite some time now, but what with school starting up full time they just kept getting put off and put off until Saturday morning when I buckled down and resolved that it would finally be the day.

Now these are a little bit different than a doughnut that you're going to get at your local big chain shop.  They are baked and not fried, and are closer to a cake doughnut but a little more airy than the standard one you'll find at supermarkets and the like. This is by no means a bad thing though, and while I won't classify these as "health food" they are much healthier than any other doughnut you'll ever get your hands on.  And the best part is 20 minutes after I started the recipe, they were being happily eaten by my family.

This recipe does require one special piece of equipment.

A doughnut pan.  While these aren't the most common of kitchen tools, they are inexpensive and well worth the effort of going out and getting one for yourself.  Once you make homemade doughnuts in this in 15 minutes, you'll never want to live life without it again.  

If you're not a fan of powdered sugar, just leave these puppies plain!

Or add some icing and sprinkles! Valentine's Day doughnuts would be so much fun.  I'll have to add that to my pile of 5000+ recipes to try.  But really, stop reading this and go make these now.

Powdered Sugar Doughnuts
Serves: 6

1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
3 tablespoons butter (melted)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 cup milk
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray your doughnut pan with baking spray.  Combine all dry ingredients in bowl with a whisk and set aside.  In a separate bowl combine eggs, butter, vanilla, and milk.  Whisk until combined.  Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until just combined.  Scoop batter into a large plastic bag and cut 1/2 tip of the end of the bag.  Fill each doughnut mold in doughnut pan.  Bake for 7-9 minutes until doughnuts are springy when touched.  Put powdered sugar into a different large plastic bag.  After 5 minutes take two doughnuts at a time and shake in powdered sugar bag until well coated. Repeat for remaining doughnuts and enjoy.

Recipe adapted from: Naturally Ella

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Favorite Frosting...Ever!

Now this is not a title I throw around easily.  You need to take me seriously when I say that this is one of the greatest recipes for frosting I have ever tasted... ever.  This strawberry frosting will literally take any cake, cupcake, cookie, or whoopie pie you make to new heights.  And it couldn't be easier.

I had a box of William Sonoma Angel Food cake mix sitting around and I immediately knew that this icing would be a perfect compliment for it; the white fluffy cake with the sweet sticky pink frosting made me as happy as a kid in a candy store.  It literally makes me want to stop baking new things and only eat baked goods with it forever.  Try it today, and then bring me over a slice of heaven please!

P.S. I am currently drinking a pumpkin iced chai and watching enviously as "taste-tester number 1" eats a piece of this right now.  I am seriously regretting not bringing some for me too!

Strawberry Heaven Frosting

Servings: 1 double layered 9-inch cake
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)
5 cups confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 carton strawberries
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
pink gel paste food coloring (optional)

Wash and cut stems off strawberries and puree in food processor with granulated sugar until well combined.  Measure 1/2 cup of puree.  If short add a few more strawberries and puree until 1/2 cup is reached.  Cream butter with an electric mixer for about two minutes.  Add powdered sugar slowly while beating on lowest speed possible until well combined.  Add vanilla extract and strawberry puree and beat until combined.  Add a little pink gel paste food coloring if desired for an extra pink color. (The frosting will already be light pink)  Frost any cupcake, cake, cookie, or whoopie pie and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Spicy Parmesan Cornmeal Crackers

I just got home from Atlantic City last night, and I must say I came home a winner! Maybe $33 dollars isn't the biggest jackpot they've ever let slip from between their fingers, but it made me happy nonetheless.  Lucky for me though, this recipe can be made from any budget, so these crackers were happening regardless of the win.

It's hard to explain these crackers, truly.  They are really not like a ritz cracker at all.  They remind me a little bit in texture of the oyster crackers you use in clam chowder and the like.  Their flavor is a mixture of parmesan and spice without being overbearing.  These crackers are very tasty though and are great for snacking on their own, but I could also see them being great in hummus, dips, soups, or with cheese cut up!  This recipe makes a very big yield, so it's perfect for parties.  And won't people be impressed when you whip out your own homemade crackers for an appetizer.  They never have to know how easy they are to make!

I toned down the spice in these for my family, but if you like things with a bit more kick feel free to add more to taste!!  As for me, now I have this $33 dollars burning a hole in my pocket.  Looks like a Starbucks run is in my near future. :)

Spicy Parmesan Cornmeal Crackers

Servings: About 40-60 crackers (depending on size of cutter)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon chili powder (substitute cayenne pepper for more of a kick)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold cut into tiny pieces)
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a food processor combine all ingredients EXCEPT for the buttermilk.  Process until mixture is shaggy and coarse and no big lumps remain.  With the machine running, add the buttermilk in a constant stream.  Keep machine running until the mixture forms a dough.  Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for a few seconds to make sure the mixture is uniform.  Form into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap.  Let sit for 15 minutes.  Cut the dough into four quarters.  Using one quarter at a time, roll out to a 1/16-inch thickness (about the thickness of a ritz cracker).  Use a tiny biscuit cutter or small glass to cut crackers out.  Place on a baking sheet with either parchment paper or a baking mat.  Imprint each cracker with the tines of a fork.  Repeat on three other quarters of dough.  Bake crackers at 375 for 10-13 minutes.  Keep a close eye on them after 8 minutes, they can burn quickly.  Let cool and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Joy The Baker

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Oreo Truffles

When it comes to desserts, oreos are not necessarily my first choice.  Now I'm not saying I'd turn them down if they were the only cookie in my house, but if I had a choice between an oreo and a soft and chewy chocolate chip cookie, 9 times out of 10 I'm going to go for the soft and chewy cookie.

However, when we get into the realm of oreo "baked goods", well that's just a whole different ball park. They are some of my absolutely favorite things to eat.  I know my rationale doesn't make much sense but I think it's on the same level of the fact I hate raw tomatoes, but love all tomato products.  But that story is for another post and another day all together.

The first time I ever tried oreo truffles was on New Years 2009, when one of my best friends Maria made them for a party we were having.  They were very good, but truth be told I never really gave them another thought, at least that was until recently.  I was skimming food blogs and they kept popping up at me.  The idea was planted in my mind, (inception style), and I couldn't stop thinking about them until the other day when I finally decided to make them.  And boy am I glad I did!

These are some of the cutest and easiest things ever to put together and will impress anyone you put a plate out for. Be warned though, they won't last long.  If you want to save some for yourself, I recommend a secret stash. :)

Oreo Truffles

Servings: 30-40 truffles
1 box oreos (use the WHOLE box)
1 8 oz package of 1/3 less fat cream cheese
16 oz semisweet chocolate
1 teaspoon vegetable shortening
6 oz white chocolate (if desired)

Put oreos and cream cheese into a food processor and run the machine until combined.  Transfer to a bowl and make sure no big oreo pieces remain. (Crush if they do.)  Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.  Roll oreo dough into truffle sized balls and place on baking sheet with either parchment or wax paper.  Melt semisweet chocolate and shortening in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Dip each oreo truffle in chocolate, and after excess has dripped back into the bowl place truffle back on baking sheet.  After all truffles have been dipped place tray in freezer for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, melt white chocolate in a bowl in the microwave.  Drizzle white chocolate over truffles after their 5 minutes in the freezer.  Transfer to a serving platter and keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  Enjoy. 

Recipe adapted from The Culinary Couple

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Homemade Buttermilk

Can't you just picture me sitting in my house in some form of bonnet, hunched over a churn and working for hours to produce the world's best buttermilk?  That's what I'd be imagining if I saw a post entitled homemade buttermilk before I started baking.  The truth to making homemade buttermilk couldn't be farther from that though, and thank goodness for me, bonnets were never my style.

Buttermilk is one of those baking ingredients that is a real pain in the butt.  I mean that in the sense that buttermilk isn't present enough in baked goods to normally make it a kitchen staple for most cooks/bakers (and obviously it doesn't keep forever so it's hard to keep on hand for long periods of time just in case).  When buttermilk does pop up in a recipe though and you have to go to the grocery store to buy it, the other pain is that they usually only sell it in large quantities.

For me this problem persisted for awhile and I'd find myself skipping recipes with buttermilk in them just to save myself the trouble.  Whenever I did make the trip to get buttermilk, odds are at least half the bottle would end up going bad in my fridge from not being used and would need to be thrown out.

That was at least until I discovered that you could make your own buttermilk at home in 5 minutes with barely any work involved.  It literally changed my baking life.  Now I can make buttermilk on an as need basis.  This little trick has saved me time and money, and I hope if you're baking in the kitchen you consider trying it out.  I guarantee you'll never go back to store bought buttermilk again. No churns required :)

Homemade Buttermilk

Servings: 1cup
>1 cup milk 
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Pour 1 tablespoon white vinegar in a measuring cup.  Pour milk over vinegar in measuring cup until mixture reaches 1 cup line.  Do not stir.  Let sit for 5 minutes uncovered at room temperature.  And that's it!  Use homemade buttermilk to your pleasing.

Recipe adapted from Cooks.com

Monday, January 10, 2011

Smiley Face Cinnamon-Sugar Toast

Today I'd like to share a recipe that is very close to my heart.  It very might well be the simplest and most unprofessional thing I ever decide to post, but for sentimental reasons this recipe is just as important to me as the most amazing cake and cookies I churn out.

I was lucky enough to grow up in quite the unusual household.  I grew up with not just my two parents, but also with two grandparents, as well as a great grandparent.  It certainly made for an interesting childhood, and it's one I would never want to trade for anything.

My mom's mom was an absolutely amazing cook, like so amazing it's really hard for me to even begin to break into her recipes because a lot is left out.  (Notes such as "you can just tell when to take them out" are not uncommon and tend to leave you feeling inadequate at the least.)  Me being an only child, we got to spend lots of time together as I was growing up.  Unfortunately she passed away when I was seven years old, so most of the recipes remain a mystery.  Luckily for me however, there are a few recipes I could never forget.

Now this recipe isn't one that will win any awards, and might not even seem special at first glance.  But one of my favorite memories of growing up was waking up and coming downstairs to have my mom-mom make me smiley face toast.  I don't think a 3 or 4 year old kid could want anything more in life. (I'm sure the cinnamon and sugar didn't hurt either.)  The reason why food and cooking and baking are so special are sometimes not because of the recipes themselves, but because of the people they bring together. Sometimes the memories of the people we shared these foods and moments with are just as good as the food, and whipping the recipes up once again can remind us of that.

One day maybe I'll attempt more of my mom-mom's recipes, but for today... this is enough. :)

Smiley Face Cinnamon-Sugar Toast

Servings: 2
2 slices of any bread of your liking
1-2 tablespoons butter or butter substitute, softened
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
liquid food coloring

Toast the bread in either a toaster oven or toaster to desired darkness.  While the toast is still warm spread with butter until no more butter can be seen.  Mix cinnamon and sugar together in a small dish.  Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture over toast to taste, shaking off excess if desired.  Take any color liquid food dye and quickly dab on bread (while only LIGHTLY squeezing) to draw face.  Less is more when it comes to the food coloring.  You can always add more but can't take it off.  Serve and enjoy.

Recipe a Betty Ellen and Mary original.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Le Petit Snowmen Cupcakes

I've always been a sucker for a gimmick.  I can't even tell you how many times as a kid I'd run to find my mom telling her we just HAD to have whatever infomercial was on in that moment.  Remember "set it -and forget it!"?  I was all over that one.  Just thank god my mom had the sense to ignore my pleas of "BUT THERE'S ONLY 5 MINUTES LEFT TO ORDER!!" or else my house might be a scarier place today.

Moving on.  Obviously this mentality hasn't left me because the minute I saw these cupcakes topped with mini-french snowmen, I just knew I had to have them immediately.  I heard my inner 7 year old saying "How can you say no to little berets??"  And these cupcakes turned out even cuter than I ever imagined.  Perfect for a snowy day stuck inside.  You can use any cupcake or icing recipe you like; I opted for vanilla-vanilla just to go for that snowy look.  And really if you're stretched for time or unsure of your baking abilities start off with store bought cake mix and icing and just have fun decorating.  The best part is they all seem to have different personalities when you're done.

(The guy on the left looks cocky to me, while the one on the 
right looks terrified he's about to be eaten.  That 
little dude in the back, clearly depressed he's not in
the limelight.)

In all seriousness though, this is a really fun and easy recipe to put together, would be great to do with kids, and they are guaranteed to make anyone smile. :)

Le Petit Snowmen Cupcakes

Servings: 12 (or as many as you'd like!)
12 cupcakes of your favorite flavor
1 cup (or can) of your favorite frosting
24 regular sized marshmallows
hand-full of chocolate jimmies (you really only need 24 but it's good to have extras)
around 5-6 gummy orange slices (or any orange gummy candies you can get your hands on)
12 junior mints

Bake your favorite cupcakes in liners and allow to cool completely on cooling rack.  Frost with your favorite icing.  Don't worry about being perfect, this is supposed to be a rustic snow scene.  Snow doesn't fall perfectly.  Attach one regular size marshmallow on each cupcake and push down slightly.  Add a dab of vanilla icing on the top of each marshmallow.  Cut a slice off of the bottom of another 12 marshmallows and squish slightly to make a little smaller.  Attach the sticky side of each marshmallow to the other marshmallow on each cupcake.  Take a toothpick and dip in water and make two holes on each top marshmallow for two eyes.  Insert a chocolate jimmy into each hole with kitchen tweezers (or just your hands!).  Cut 12 tiny triangles out of the gummy orange slices and attach right onto each marshmallow beneath the eyes. (It should stick on it's own).  Place another dab of vanilla icing on the top of each snowman.  Finish by placing a junior mint on top of the dab of icing as a beret for each snowman and enjoy!

Recipe Adapted from: Marth Stewart's Cupcakes

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Triple Chocolate Heath Bar Brownies

This morning I woke up with a want.  I wanted something decadent, I wanted something chocolate-y, I wanted a brownie.  But not just any brownie.  I wanted something with a kick.  I set off to my kitchen with the full intention of making chocolate ginger brownies, but a quick scan of ingredients showed I didn't have any bittersweet chocolate left over from "taste tester number one"'s birthday cake.  Therefore I settled on Martha Stewart's Double Chocolate Brownies.  Now I'm not saying there is anything wrong with double chocolate brownies, AT ALL.  But when you're expecting something with a little oomph, sometimes double chocolate just doesn't cut it.  

Call it fate, call it luck, but as I was resigned to make these double chocolate brownies I just so happened to notice a half-used bag of heath bar bits in my freezer.  That was it, the decision was immediately made and without measuring the whole bag was quickly dumped in.  And WOW.  Let me just say these brownies are absolutely to die for.  I am sure they would have been great just as double chocolate brownies, but the heath bar bits just take them to another level all together.  I decided to mix mine all in so that when you take a bite it's almost like a surprise what waits inside, but these would be equally as awesome with some reserved and sprinkled on top, or maybe with some melted caramels on top instead.  Oh the possibilities... :)

Triple Chocolate Heath Bar Brownies

Servings: 16 small or 9 large
6 tablespoons unsalted butter 
6 tablespoons semisweet chocolate (coarsely chopped)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup heath bar bits 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8x8 inch baking dish with parchment allowing for some overhang on each side.  Put butter, chocolate, and cocoa powder in a heat proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Stir until all has melted together.  Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs and sugar on medium until pale (2-4 min).  Add the chocolate mixture and combine.  Set the mixer to low and add the flour mixture slowly.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Fold in heath bar bits until well combined.  Pour batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula.  Bake for about 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the brownies comes out clean.  Let cool slightly in pan, then remove brownies from pan and let cool completely.  Slice and enjoy.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Salted Lavender Honey Shortbread

I'll be the first to admit that the men in my life are big dessert guys.  I'm talking give me that mondo chocolate chip cookie or nothing at all.  So therefore when I want to treat myself to a girlier treat, I tend to go all out.  These salted lavender honey shortbread cookies fit the bill on all levels.  And to bump up their girl power even more I used a heart cookie cutter to make some of mine even cuter (if I have any male readers I truly apologize).  These would look equally as great though left in their more rustic form like so

When it comes to these cookies, they can really be shaped to your own liking and fit many different occasions.  These cookies go far beyond the everyday shortbread and are certainly fancy enough to grace any "high tea" table you set for you and your friends but are so incredibly easy, you'll have everyone fooled.  The key to this recipe is finding the right ingredients and using the right tools.  Lavender isn't the most commonly found kitchen ingredient, but low and behold it actually can be found in places other than just online. 

What's great about this particular lavender is that it will last you a very very long time.  Well worth the drive to the local mall if I do say so myself.  Besides high quality ingredients the one other thing that will make these shortbread a success for you is using the right tool.  You'll want to make sure to crush the lavender before you put it in or else you'll be chowing down on some prickly pines (yuck!), which is where my handy-dandy mortar and pestle come into play.

DON'T be afraid if you've never used one.  They are absolutely a cinch and can be used for so many different things in the kitchen (and just so happen to be reasonably priced if you know where to look).  Let's see why this makes such a difference.

(Lavender before being crushed)
(and after. much better for cookie batter)

After you've solved these two little problems the rest of the recipe is about as basic as you can get and in no time you'll have cookies that are worthy of any special occasion. And maybe, just maybe the boys will be invited too. :)

Salted Lavender Honey Shortbread

Servings: about 16
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter (cut into small cubes)
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of lavender (ground in spice grinder or with mortar and pestle)
sprinkling of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Take an 8x8 baking dish and line with parchment paper allowing for some overhang on each side.  Combine all ingredients except the sea salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed until combined and smooth. (Note: the dough with look shaggy and dry.  However, you should not see any chunks of butter left)  Press the dough evenly into the prepared pan and pierce all over with fork (make sure not to go all the way through the dough with the fork).  Bake for 35-40 min until cookies are light brown all over.  Allow cookies to cool for five minutes and then sprinkle tops with sea salt.  Allow to cool in pan an additional 30 minutes.  Lift cookies in parchment from pan and either cut into squares or use a cookie cutter to cut out different shapes.  Serve and enjoy.

Recipe adapted from Evil Shenanigans

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Post 001. Panettone Eggnog Bread Pudding

It's truly hard to know where to begin.  This blog has been a thought it my mind for quite some time, it's just been hard to actually bring myself to begin it.  Maybe because I've become so enthralled with following food blogs myself that I felt like I'd never be able to live up to my own expectations when it came to my own blog. However, my reasons to start far outnumbered those not to, so here I am.  I've been dying for a way to chronicle all of the new recipes I try as well as share them with anyone who would like to see. I've certainly gained so much from learning from others in baking and cooking on the blog community so I have so much excitement to be joining in.  Well let's just dive right into it, shall we?  The holidays are over, the decorations are being brought down, and we're all trying desperately to fit into the jeans that seemed to glide on so easily in October (maybe I'm dreaming with that one ;)).  While this recipe will certainly not help with the latter problem (sorry), it will certainly help keep the holiday spirits up just a little bit longer!  The fact that store bought panettone is used in this recipe makes it an absolute cinch.  It's good all on it's own, just like this,

right out of the oven, but I personally like mine spiced up in a fancy glass with either some whipped cream of vanilla ice cream (use fat free for less guilt! ;)) like so,

just to keep the holiday feel going, if only for a little bit more.  The original recipe called for the addition of dried currants, but I never seem to be able to find them in my area so I just omitted them for mine.  If you do find them though, feel free to add them as well! Here's to 2011 and as always a fresh start filled with lots of love and even more baked goods :)

Panetonne Eggnog Bread Pudding

Serves 4
1 lb panettone (about half of a loaf - I used store bought but of course homemade would work too!)
3 eggs
2 cups eggnog (non-alcoholic kind)
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/3 cup of raisins
1/3 cup of dried cranberries
scattering of dried currants (if not available omit)

Leave the panettone out to become slightly stale overnight.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the panettone into cubes.  If you want a softer bread pudding cut off all of the crust of the bread, for a more textured pudding leave these intact.  Combine eggs, eggnog, and cinnamon in a LARGE bowl, whisking until all combined and until the mixture is as uniform as you can get it.  Add panettone, raisins, cranberries, and currants and toss until equally coated.  Pour into a 8x8 baking dish and bake in preheated oven for 50-60 minutes until puffy.  Let sit for five minutes and serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.

Recipe adapted from: Eclectic Recipes