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Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Sunday, November 27, 2005
I know Christmas is the season of giving. It's not about the presents & what cool gifts we get. But Lord forgive me for saying this, Christmas is also the season of eating. Then again, what season isn't a season of eating for a food obsessed person like me? lol
So I started my holiday baking brainstorming sessions well before Thanksgiving, as a matter of fact, I think I started as soon as the first Christmas editions of my favorite magazines hit the stands. So far this year, I've bought 2 "special interest publications" from BH&G, a Christmas edition Family Circle & the infamous Martha Stewart "Holiday Cookies" issue. Believe me, I've got my eye on a few more..lol Do you think I will ever end up baking even a fourth of the yummy items in these magazines?? NO!! As a matter of fact, for the most part, I'll probably stick to my usual holiday cookies. But it's fun to daydream about all those yummy smells & delicious flavors. MmMmMmm, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. lol
Of course, we've established my obvious obsession with food and baking. So you know I was thrilled when I read that this month's edition of Sugar High Friday is a joint project between Jennifer over at Domestic Goddess, and Alberto over at Il Forno. They came up with a WONDERFUL idea for this month's SHF/IMBB - a virtual cookie swap!! Isn't that fantastic?? It gives everyone a great excuse to get a jump on their holiday cookie baking, testing out new recipes a few weeks in advance. Not to mention the swap is a fantastic way to get new holiday cookie recipes, with reveiws to go along with them.
For those of us in the US, the swap has fallen on a pretty hectic week for many of us - Thanksgiving!! It hasn't been too crazy for me, but the fact of the matter is, we have TONS upon TONS of leftovers and mulitple batches of cookies would just go to waste for us right now. So for the actual cookie swap I have only baked 1 new recipe. BUT!!! I'm including my recipe for the best homemade chocolate chip cookies I have ever tasted. I LOVE chocolate, pretty obvious from previous posts right?? Yes!! lol And I LOVE marshmellow stuffed inside most anything chocolate, so I found the perfect recipe for me as I was flipping the pages of MS's Holiday cookies magazine. There they were on pg. 89 in all their "cakey and tender" glory - Surprise Cookies. Ohmygosh!! These cookies are divine!! And I'm soooo proud they came out looking JUST LIKE MARTHA's!!! My only complaint?? You can't really taste the marshmellow. Would I make them again?? In a heartbeat!!
Surprise Cookies ~ makes 2 1/2 dozen
For the cookies:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder(not Dutch-process)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
About 15 marshmellows halved crosswise
For the frosting:
3 cups confectioners' sugar
6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder(not Dutch-process)
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp whole milk
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1. Make cookies: Preheat over to 375 degrees. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda & salt into medium bowl; set aside. Put butter & sugar into bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on medium high speed until pale & fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low; mix in egg, milk & vanilla. Mix in flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, until combined.
2. Using a 1 3/4 inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until firm, 8-10 minutes. Immediately press a marshmellow half on top of each cookie. Bake until marshmellows begin to melt, 2 minutes more. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.
3. Make frosting: Put confectioners' sugar in medium bowl; set aside. Melt butter with cocoa powder in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occassionally. Add butter mixture to confectioners' sugar. Whisk in milk and vanilla. Spread about 1 Tbsp of frosting on top of each cookie to cover marshmellow. Let stand until set, about 10 minutes. Cookies can be stored in single layers in airtight containers at room temperature up to 2 days.
Now..on to the best homemade chocolate chip cookies ever!! Move over Mrs. Fields here I come..using your recipe..lol I know we've all seen those copcat recipes right?? Well, I think this one really is because when I eat one of these cookies fresh from the oven, if I close my eyes I swear I'm standing in the middle of the mall foodcourt loaded down with arms full of shopping bags. Ahhh heaven isn't it? lol Blue Ribbon Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Low-fat & NOT lovin' it
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
| Nothin says Thanksgiving like turkey right?? Well all this thinkin about turkey & planning for the BIG meal, has had me thinkin ALOT about sweet potatoes. I absolutely love & crave sweet potatoes. It's just something about them when they're soft & warm. So sweet...YUMMY!! They're a total comfort food for me..bringing back some of my fondest memories of childhood.|
And for some reason I remember this 1 sweet potato casserole that was served at our family's Thanksgiving feast not too many years ago. It was fantastic!! I still kick myself in the butt for not getting that recipe..grrr!! So as usual, I tured to the FoodNetwork website in hopes of finding a recipe to satisfy my craving of that wonderfully delish sweet potato casserole. I found a recipe that I felt would be pretty darn close, but I did make a few changes to suit my tastes.
My craving was satisfied pretty well, although, next time I will add more sugar, some extra spices & I'll change the topping mixture up a bit. Overall, I would say it's a good recipe, but for a southern girl who knows what a true sweet potato casserole should taste like, it wasn't sweet enough..Y'all know we like it SWEET lol.
Sweet Potato Casserole
2 1/2 lb sweet potatoes (about 3 large), scrubbed
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put sweet potatoes on baking sheet & pierce each several times with a fork. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until tender. Set aside to cool.
Turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Scoop the sweet potato ou tof their skins & into a medium bowl. Discard skins. Mash potatoes until smooth. Add eggs, butter, brown sugar and spices. Whisk mixture until smooth.
Butter casserole dish. Pour sweet potatoe mixture into pan. Combine topping ingredients & sprinkle over potato mixture. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a bit puffy. Serve immediately.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
I'm sooo last minute with this..my first ever participation in the Weekend Dog Blogging event, which is hosted by
You may have caught a glimpse of my little men before when I shared with you my adventures in making homemade doggie treats. I would like to formally introduce y'all to..
Sammy, who in this shot appears to be in hiding..and no I don't think he's camera shy..lol
Saturday, November 19, 2005
All the sweet varieties...
My idea for this post was sparked by comments to my last post from Heather and Lisa, asking what exactly caster sugar is. I started to simply answer the question, but y'all know me by now, I like to talk..lol Seriously I do. But I also started to think.. I know we all look at LOTS of different recipes and I know I'm not the only one who has noticed that the more recipes I search through the more different types of sugar I learn there are, so I thought I would do a little breakdown & of course answer the original question...
Of course there's the basics :
The not so common types:
Now to answer the original question the lovely ladies asked, caster sugar, which is also often known as superfine sugar is finely ground granulated sugar. I have never found it in any of the stores I shop in, so I make my own by pulsing regular granulated sugar in the food processor for 1-2 minutes. Simple as that!! I must admit I rarely use it, although since the finer grain obviously dissolves quicker/more easily it is helpful in meringues or cold liquids.
Maple sugar is dehydrated maple sap - ewww does that even sound like something I would want to bake with?? uh no!! It is twice as sweet as granulated sugar & judging by the photo I've seen of it looks like a cross between granulated sugar & light brown sugar, in case you were wondering..lol
Turbinado sugar is a light brown crystalized sugar, that is only partly refined. It doesn't have a sugary sugar flavor to it, more like a brown sugar or molasses. Turbinado sugar is also sold as "Sugar In the Raw", so next time you go in Starbucks for your latte fix, grab a packed of the stuff & taste it..let me know what you think - I'll stick with my over processed white stuff..
Demerara Sugar is natural unrefined cane sugar, a light brown sugar in the form of large somewhat sticky crystals.
Muscovado sugar, not to be confused with Turbinado sugar is a dark brown crystalized sugar with a deep molasses flavor. It's one of those unrefined "raw" sugars. I have yet to find a recipe that requires it..maybe some of fancy smancy cookie recipes or something..if I find out I'll update ya k? lol
Friday, November 18, 2005
|Time for another fun food blogging event!! This event is hosted by winosandfoodies and is centered around Donna Hay, the wonderful Australian domestic goddess, and her self frosting cupcakes. I absolutely LOVE her, so of course I was excited & jumped at the chance to participate in this event. She has a fabulous style. All her books & recipes are so elegantly simple, I just love that!|
So the idea of this event was that everyone participating follow the same basic recipe, either exactly how Donna Hay created it or add their own little twist to it. The recipe is featured in her book Modern Classics 2. The original calls for peanut butter as the "frosting", but as many bloggers before me have done I chose to use Nutella as my "frosting" and believe me I didn't go wrong with that decision. The cupcakes were delicious! I tried them out on my usual test group - the family, with the focus as usual on my niece & nephew. Not a crumb was intentionally left, but they are 3 & 6 years old, so a few crumbs ended up on the floor I'm sure..lol I sent the remainder of the cupcakes to school with my nephew the next day for his snack time and have been told they were a big hit, even with the teacher. I will definitely make these again, experimenting with different "frostings", I'm thinking I'll try apple butter next time. Maybe substitute brown sugar for some of the granulated sugar, maybe add some cinnamon. YUM-O! That would make a nice winter snack no?? I think yes!!
My only complaint, I think I got a little generous with the Nutella in a few of the cupcakes because I notices a few of them split & looked a tad bit hollow in the very center. I think the Nutella is to blame for that.
Recipe taken directly from Modern Classics 2.
Self-Frosting Cupcakes aka Nutella Cupcakes
(Originally known as Peanut Butter Cupcakes)
6 oz butter, softened
3/4 c. superfine sugar
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
2 tsp. baking powder
Nutella (can substitute jam or peanut butter)
Preheat the oven to 324 F/160 C.
Place very soft butter, superfine sugar, eggs, sifted all purpose flour and baking powder in a bowl and mix, using electric beaters, until smooth.
Line 12 muffin tins with paper cases.
Spoon in the mixture and swirl 1 1/2 tsp Nutella (can also use jam or peanut butter) through each cake. Bake for 20 minutes.
Makes 12 standard size cupcakes.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
|In my book pudding is one of the ultimate comfort foods. It's one of those foods that when I think about it I immediately revert back to childhood. Of course when I think of pudding images of Bill Cosby & the sounds of small children singing "J-E-L-L-O!" also pop into my head.|
Well, there is no more instant pudding in my house!! When time permits & I'm not being uber lazy of course..lol The recipe I tried was pretty simple, pretty darn tastey & low fat to boot. I only had to cook it for a few minutes, was able to use ingredients I already had on hand. What more can you ask for in a chocolate fix??
I made a few changes to the recipe, using a combo of regular unsweetened cocoa & dutch processed cocoa, omitting the almond extract. I also used about 2 1/2 Tbsp packed cornstarch instead of 3, as I thought 3 seemed like a bit too much & I didn't want the pudding to be too thick. I think I will try it with 3 Tbsp next time. And yes there will definitely be a next time with this recipe =)
New-Style Old Fashioned Chocolate Pudding
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons (packed) cornstarch
1 teaspoon all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
2 cups low-fat (1%) milk
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
Mix first 5 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan. Add 1 cup milk and whisk to dissolve cornstarch. Whisk in remaining milk. Whisk mixture over medium heat until thickened and beginning to simmer, about 5 minutes. Simmer 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla and almond extracts.
Divide pudding among 4 custard cups. Chill until cold, about 2 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; keep chilled.)
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
|Like everybody else, I get the blues for one reason or another from time to time. Well, you guessed it..I've been tryin to chase them away. And what's a girl's favorite way to try chasin away the blues?? Chocolate!!! And since I've been on what feels like the NEVERENDING hunt for the perfect brownie, I thought I'd do double duty with my baking today and try out a new brownie recipe. I was a bit skeptical of this recipe..of course I'm skeptical of every brownie recipe I try, most likely because I have a VERY specific idea of how I want my brownies to be. I want a rich & fudgey brownie, that's firm & a little chewy, but not cakey and I don't want it to be crackley on top. A brownie like you would find in a bakery or a coffeeshop..atleast the ones I've been to & ordered brownies at lol.|
Does that make sense to anyone?? If anyone has a recipe that results in that brownie I would love you forever if you share it with me!!! =)
So I found the recipe of all places in an old issue of Cooking Light magazine from December 2003, the Best of Cooking Light Simple Suppers issue. I figured it was worth a shot because I had all the ingredients on hand & felt sure even if they didn't live up to my hopes & dreams for a brownie they would be decent & I was right. I'm still on the hunt for that perfect brownie, but these were good. They got pretty good reviews..my niece & nephew gobbled them up, which seems to be nothing new when it comes to my baked goods. I suppose that right there should give me HUGE confidence because they are pretty stiff critics & not yet to that age where they pretend to like something so as not to hurt your feelings..I just love that about them..cause if it taste horrible I want to know..lol
The recipe strictly uses cocoa powder, so no chocolate to melt. I chose to go with half dutch processed cocoa & half regular unsweetened cocoa, as dutch-process is my preference but can come across as overwhelmingly strong in many recipes. The recipe also calls for a bit of coffee, which I couldn't so much taste, but my nephew noticed & loved immediately. The coffee was more or less just to intensify the chocolate flavor. Also recipe requires that you beat the sugar & the eggs together for about 5 minutes to give the baked brownies a crackly surface. I added some semi-sweet chocolate chips because I don't think there is any such thing as too much chocolate..lol
1 c sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp hot water
2 tsp instant coffee granules
1/4 c butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c all purpose flour
2/3 c unsweetened cocoa
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp powdered sugar (optional)
1. preheat oven to 325 degrees
2. Place sugar & eggs in a large bowl, beat with mixer on high speed until thick & pale, about 5 minutes. Combine hot water & coffee granules, stirring to dissolve. Add coffee mixture, butter & vanilla to sugar mixture; beat at low speed until combined.
3. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa & salt, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture, stirring just until moist ( batter will be thick).
4. Spread batter into an 8-inch square pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 325 degrees for 23 minutes or until the brownies spring back when touched lightly in center. Cool in pan on wire rack. Garnish with powdered sugar, if desired. Yields 16 servings.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Thursday, November 03, 2005
I made my first ever carrot cake this week..Score!! Even I impressed myself with this cake. It was absolutely delicious!! Moist with a soft dense crumb, just the right amount of chopped pecans. The perfect amount of spices..and the frosting..Ooohmygoodness!! I LOVE cream cheese anyway..like do you want Paula Deen on the FoodNetwork?? You know how she LOVES butter..well that's how I feel about cream cheese. Only unlike Mrs. Paula with her butter, I don't put cream cheese in EVERYTHING..lol
Last week I tried out a new chocolate cake recipe, on what I thought was to be my never ending search for MY perfect chocolate cake, well I think I found it. On recommendation from a couple of the members over at CakeCentral I tried the chocolate cake recipe on the back of the hershey's dutch processed cocoa container. It's fabulous!! Exactly the cake I was looking for.
Then this week I try the carrot cake recipe from the book "Birthday Cakes: Recipes & Memories from Celebrated Bakers" by Kathryn Kleinman. The recipe was from Maida Heatter. As usual, I'm pretty random with my posting so I don't have the recipe handy in front of me, but if you want it leave me a comment with your email address & I will send it to you or I will try to remember & post it later...promise..lol
As I always do when baking a cake, I took some of the batter & made a few cupcakes, they turned out to be absolutely adorable..but after all they are cupcakes, how could they be anything other than adorable? lol And I just couldn't do a cake without some form of decoration, so being that it's a CARROT cake I figured some cute little carrot toppers were in order..so I whipped up about 25 fondant carrots. It was a bit tedious, but well worth it as it gave me some practice with fondant, which I haven't had recently. Not to mention I think the little carrots look adorable!