Tuesday, December 23, 2014

White Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake

Here's a last minute idea for Christmas dessert. White Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake. Oh Boy! Cheesecake is one of my all time favorite desserts. Any kind really. As long as its cheesecake and this one fits the bill for the holidays. A smooth mellow white chocolate batter, spiked with peppermint extract, sprinkled with crushed candy canes and sitting atop a chocolate Oreo crust. This will last a few days so making it now is a good option. It also freezes beautifully. I actually froze it, cut it into serving sizes, wrapped those tightly in plastic wrap, and popped them back in the freezer. Single servings of cheesecake anytime I want. It IS Christmas. 

I've adapted this recipe from my current blog crush "The Woodland Bakery Blog". Go check out Gretchen's tips for cheesecakes, they are invaluable. Although this recipe is step intensive it doesn't really have any fancy technique. It's pretty hard to mess it up. So in the interest of time, let's get to it. . .

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pie Crust

Hey there, miss me? No worries, I'm back. If you read my last post from a couple of weeks ago you already know that I needed a break. Just a couple of weeks to catch my breath. And whew, I did. It was nice. Sorry, I didn't post any "best of" collections, forgot to roll over my 401K and only partially got my house cleaned. Whateves. I did have a yard sale, feels sooooo good to purge and went on a date with the hubs, love that man. So. . .mission partially accomplished and that's good enough for me. I also had some time to cook without the added pressure of uploading to the blog. But I did take pictures so I've got some stuff to share. Here goes. . .

Since the holidays are just around the corner why not get ahead of the whole baking thing. Get some "stuff" in the freezer to streamline the process down the road. You can't quite get started on your finished desserts but you can get a couple of pie shells in the freezer ready to go. So get too it.

I tried a new pie dough recipe that I found on the Woodland Bakery Blog. I've searched a long time for a good "go to" pie shell. I really like Gesine's "Quick Puff" and will use that one again. But there's a lot of folding and rolling (I posted about it here.). It's good, and very flakey and I like the idea of using it for a lattice topped fruit pie. But, I wouldn't call it all purpose. However, this recipe came together quickly, used pantry ingredients and most of all, was buttery and flakey. All purpose. This is the perfect recipe to make, a couple of times over, form into shells and freeze for later. Check it out. . .

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Keeping Up and Keeping Recipes

Dear Blog Readers,
     I'm sorry. I've neglected the blog as of late. Life has just gotten crazy and I can't seem to keep up. Somethin's gotta give. So, after much though, I've decided to take a break from the blog. Not permanently, just a hiatus. Just to give myself a bit of breathing room. It seems that its been harder and harder to find time to cook, let alone, photograph and blog. Blogging was creating stress and I started this whole thing as a stress-releasing hobby. It was counteracting it's own purpose. Not good. So I'm gunna take the next 3 or 4 weeks off. . . get my house clean, I mean deep deep cleaned. . .roll over that old 401K. . .have a much needed yard sale. . .go on a date with the hubs and in general just slow down.
     In the mean time, I've posted below some of the ways that I develop and organize my recipes. I also plan to post a few "best of" collections. Best Dinners, Best Desserts, etc. For those of you who've been here from the beginning, you may rediscover a recipe, and for those who've just started tuning in, they'll be new to you. I plan to be back in November, reinvigorated and full of great fall and holiday recipes. So for now, adieu.

Keeping Recipes. . .
If you're at all like me, you have grand delusions of being a world famous cook. Well at least an accomplished home cook. You're addicted to hoarding, er, collecting recipes. You "pin" them to Pinterest or down load them from the internet. Tear them out of magazines. Snap pictures from friends' cookbooks and jot them down on post-its as you pause and rewind the DVR. There are any number of ways to get a "fix". And after all this hoard. . .er. . .collecting. . .of recipes. . .that you're going to make right away. . .you have a growing pile. A pile that grows and grows. A pile that is so big that you couldn't possible make all those recipes, even if you made a new one every day. So what do you do? Here are some of the ways I develop and keep recipes:

First of all, let's address that recipe hoard. This is my pile of "Recipes to Make". Stuff torn out of magazines, cut off of boxes, picked up a the market, printed off the internet, etc. They all go in this file. It's really not that big. But it was. Boy was it big, about a inch thick. I keep it small by constantly re-evaluating. Whenever I'm looking for inspiration for the blog, or just something new to fix, I flip through this file. And I really look at what's in there. And I ask: 
- Does it still look good? Surprisingly, something that last week/month/year sounded so good you wanted to run home and make it, sounds kinda bla now. Yeah? Toss it!
- Am I realistically going to make it? If it's fried, probably not, no matter how good it looks. So, toss it!
- Does it require some super expensive ingredient, difficult technique or crazy equipment. Toss it.
- Would you even ever have an occasion to make it? No? Toss it!
You get the idea. Be realistic. You'll find you parse the file pretty quickly, and keep it manageable. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

White Texas Sheet Cake

Seems like "Texas Sheet Cakes" are all the rage on the internet these days. Almost every cooking blog has one and they're all over Pinterest. There are about a million versions, I'm not kidding, a million. There's chocolate, white, pumpkin, peanut butter, red velvet, lemon, and even a "turtle" version. Seriously, if you can think up a flavor combination, there's a Texas Sheet Cake recipe out there for it. One thing all these cakes seem to have in common is that they are big and flat (baked in a jelly roll pan) and all have some sort of icing. They also all use a melted butter method which is foreign to me as I've always made cakes by creaming the butter first. Hmmmm? Well, I like cake. I like icing. And, my Moms is from Texas so I figured I'd find out what all the fuss is about.

Chocolate Sheet Cake with fudge icing seems to be the most popular recipe out there. And, I've heard raves about Pioneer Woman's Chocolate Sheet Cake, it has pecans! But, believe it or not, I wasn't really in the mood to make a chocolate cake. I know, cray cray, you say. But as much as I love chocolate I also love all things vanilla. So I decided to go with this White Texas Sheet Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting. Check it out. . .

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fudge Drops

OK, again, another Pinterest recipe. Sorry folks, don't mean to be repetitive but Pinterest is just my "go to" when I'm looking for a recipe. And who can pass up a recipe for Brownie Cookies. Not me, that's fo show! This "Fudge Drops" recipe promised a lot. But, it came from the King Arthur web site and thus far, King Arthur recipes haven't let me down so I was willing to plunk down the serious bucks for some serious chocolate and give this recipe a try. Expectations were high to say the lest. See how it turned out. . .

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Classic Fruit Tart, part 3 (assembly)

Alrighty, let's finish this thing up. You're going to need: a pre baked tart shell, vanilla custard, some melted white or dark chocolate, an assortment of fruit (whatever you like) and some apricot jam.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Classic Fruit Tart, part 2 (custard)

No intro for this post because it's a "part 2". So lets just get into it. . .  
Just FYI, this vanilla custard recipe is from the Woodland Bakery Blog. You can find it here.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Classic Fruit Tart, part 1 (crust)

Over the 5 years that I worked in the bakery at our local grocery store I made about 1,000 fruit tarts. They were seriously a customer favorite. We didn't really make them from scratch and over the years the process and style of the tarts changed and evolved. No matter the version, they essentially consisted of a pastry crust, filled with vanilla custard and topped with fresh fruit and glaze. In making the tarts my job was one of assembly: putting together pre-made parts and topping with fruit. As you can imagine, by the time I left the bakery I was fruit-tarted out. If I never halved another strawberry or peeled another kiwi it was fine by me. I was D-O-N-E. Donezo, fo show!

Now, believe it or not, in all that time at the bakery, I had never actually had a fruit tart. Never tasted one in spite of the 1,000 tarts I had made. Not that I don't like fruit, or vanilla custard, or pastry. Totes like all those things, its just that other stuff in the dessert case appealed to me more. I'd always go for the slab of chocolate cake, the fudge topped eclaire or a luscious lemon pie. Seriously, why waste dessert calories on fruit? I'm not crazy. And then I finally had a slice. Pretty yummy. Fresh and fruity, vanilla-y and custardy and a cookie crust to boot. Why had I not tried one before? Why had I not made one before. They're easy to make (although lots of steps) and impressive. Silly me. 

Now, first things first. For a good fruit tart, you need to start with a good crust. . . 
(Note: I doubled the recipe so quantities in the pictures are twice what the recipe calls for. This dough will freeze pretty much indefinitely and it's nice to have on hand next time you want to make a tart.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Soft Batch Brown Sugar Cookies

A couple of months ago I bought a jar of coconut oil at Trader Joe's. It was sitting out on an "impulse" display and I got suckered. It looked interesting. Plus, I'd be reading and hearing all sorts of bru-ha-ha about the miracle of coconut oil. I wasn't sure what I was going to use it for: to wash my hair, to try oil pulling, as a dietary supplement, cook with it, make a face scrub or bla bla bla. Apparently there are about a million different things that you can use coconut oil for and if you believe everything you read, it'll pretty much cure whatever ails you. WOW, this stuff is a miracle in a jar. I'm gunna save the world with this stuff, or at least my family. Look out, I'm armed with coconut oil, and not afraid to use it. . .

And then it sat, for about 6 months, in my pantry, unused. I didn't save the world, or my family. We're the same old family we were before I bought it. And, ya know, that's my life sometimes, lots of good intention and no time for follow through. Whatcha gunna do? 

Then, on Pinterest, I came across a beautiful picture of Soft Batch Dark Brown Sugar Coconut Oil Cookies. So I retrieved the coconut oil from the far corner of my pantry, dusted it off, checked the "best by" date (whew, just in time) and decided to try making these cookies. . .

Monday, June 16, 2014

Roasted Parmesan Potatoes

At heart, I'm a meat and 'taters kind of gal. What's "'taters" you ask? "Po-ta-toes, ya know, boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew." (extra points if you can name the movie quote.)*  I just like, er, love potatoes. In all their configurations: mashed, roasted, baked, boiled, hash browned, O'Brianed, tater totted, French fried, scalloped. And any variety, baby new, russet, fingerling, Yukon Gold. The list goes on and on. Whenever I discover a new way to make potatoes I'm game. Seriously, the more ways I have to serve potatoes, the more meals I can serve them at and still have variety. 

When I saw a recipe for Roasted Parmesan Potatoes on Pinterest, I couldn't try it fast enough. It looked super easy and super yummy so I gave it a whirl. . .

Thursday, June 5, 2014


A couple of weeks ago, I was perusing the bakery department at my local grocery store when I came across "Nazook". What the heck is "Nazook"? I'd never heard of it, but it looked good. Anytime the bakery department has some sort of rolled filled goodie, I can't resist. They looked a lot like Rugelach, which BTW, I love, so I assumed I'd like these as well. Did I buy them, no, of course not, I immediately ran home and Googled Nazook. Seriously, if store bought is good, home made HAS to be better. 

What I learned is that Nazook is a traditional Armenian pastry. A buttery yeast dough filled with more butter and sugar and sometimes almonds. Butter and sugar and almonds? I'm in! So I Googled a bit more, read a handful of recipes (because I don't have an Armenian Nana to show me how), watched a couple of videos and decided to give it a go. . .

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Two Timin' Pasta

Theres a time for quality gourmet cooking and there's a time for throwin' it together and shoving it in the oven. This recipe is for one of those times. It's super easy to make ahead and a favorite with my family. With two teenagers who play sports, a part time job and a hubby in grad school, some days we just can't all sit down to dinner. At the very least, I like a home cooked meal that everyone can reheat and eat as they come and go. This recipe is perfect for that. I usually put it all together in the morning and refrigerate. Then the first one home puts it in the oven. Everyone just helps themselves when they get home. And it's good. Really good. Give it a whirl. . .

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Almond Horns (Mandelhoernchen)

If you've been with this blog for a while, you may have read my "Mandelhoernchen Melancholy" post. It was a disaster and let's leave it at that. After my Almond Paste post a couple of weeks ago and the success of both almond paste recipes I was ready to give Mandelhoernchen another go. I used to get "Almond Horns" from the Freeport Bakery in Sacramento when I worked down town. They were a real treat. So almondy, so crispy and just slightly sweet. The perfect mid-morning pick me up. They were more than a cookie but not quite a pastry, existing on a culinary plane all their own. For many years I erroneously searched for "Almond Crescent" recipes but only turned up a variety of almond shortbread cookies. That wasn't it. I had forgotten that they were called "Almond Horns". Who wudda thunk? Then I discovered the G Bakes blog and Mandelhoernchen and found my long lost love. After exhaustive research on Mandelhoernchen and Almond Horns, I came up with the recipe below and it's a WINNER. Or at least I think it is, check it our for yourself.

On a side note, my daughter and I discovered only just last month that Whole Foods sells these in their bakery in the self service cookie case. Only they don't dip the ends in chocolate. Shame on you Whole Foods, leaving off the chocolate. But honestly, they're pretty good. I'll head back there to snap one up, fo show!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Baked Churros

One thing I haven't quite figured out for this blog is timing posts for the holidays. Getting holiday recipes tested, photographed and posted in time for all of you to make them for the current holiday. Time just gets away from me and the next thing I know, I'm posting a Thanksgiving pie recipe in December. Too late! So far this year I've missed it on Valentine's Day and Easter. OK, room for improvement, I know. When I saw this post for Baked Churros on Pinterest I decided to end my losing streak and author a timely post for Cinco de Mayo.

Aside from the fact that I'm a good week away from Cinco de Mayo and this recipe is fitting, I couldn't pass up the chance to make churros. I really love churros but I hate to fry food at home. Notice I didn't say I hate fried food, I said I hate frying food. Big dif. I love fried foods but they are just such a pain to make at home, so messy and too much clean up. So a baked version of the churro seemed doable. Really it's pretty much a choux paste like is used in a cream puff or eclair. It just doesn't expand quite as much but the technique is basically the same. Check it out. . .

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Study In Almond Paste

If you've been with the blog from the beginning, can you believe it's been 3 years, YIKES, you may have read my post Mandelhoernchen Melancholy. If you haven't, read it. It is the story of a spectacular kitchen failure. Yes, they happen and they're part of becoming a better cook. And, it's taken me 3 years to revisit that failure. I avoided it at fist because I was gun-shy about the whole thing, the wasted ingredients, the futile effort, the wounded ego. Then I just kind of got side tracked with other recipes and forgot the whole thing.

Flash forward 3 years and I stumble upon the Woodland Bakery Blog and can't wait to try almost all of Gretchen's recipes. Low and behold, many of them use Almond Paste. And I'm a cheapskate, I don't want to spend ten bucks on 7 oz. of dry crumbly grocery store Almond Paste when I can get blanched almonds for $7 a pound. The cheapskate in me overrode the perfectionist in me and I decided to give homemade Almond Paste another go. Seriously, it's been over 3 years, time to get back on that horse and ride. I picked what looked like to viable options and decided to test them out. . .

Sunday, April 6, 2014

3-2-1 Cake

So when I came across this recipe it was called "1-2-3 Cake". Which is kinda an accurate name for it, but kinda backwards to me. (You'll see why later.) So I'm renaming it "3-2-1 Cake". A subtile difference yes, but it makes sense. At least in my mind. A mind that craves rules and order, and there must be order. Opps, didn't mean to let some of my crazy slip out. Just ignore. Anywho. . .

My co-worker recently had a child leave home for college. Although "T" will be a dorm dweller, she'd still like to occasionally cook. Unfortunately her kitchen resources are limited. As my co-worker doesn't "Pinterest", smart lady, "Pinterest" is web heroin, I hipped her to all the "mug/microwave" dessert recipes on Pinterest, for her dorm residing child. As we looked over them the one stumbling block was always the list of ingredients. Sure, all the dry ingredients could be assembled in packets and shipped with "care packages" but the egg and oil seemed to be the problem. Then I came across this recipe which just uses a couple of cake mixes and water. Huzzah! Problem solved.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Crusty No Knead Bread

More appropriately this post should be titled; "The Bread That Changed My Life". I'm not kidding you, it has. I almost certainly won't be buying anymore rustic loaves of bread from the grocery store. I am declaring myself the official bread bringer of ANY dinner party to which I am invited. And, I have ditched my attitude towards bread making. This bread is that good and that easy. 

Seriously, I've had an attitude about baking bread. It always seemed like such a hassle. All the rising and punching down and rising again and shaping and resting and rising and baking and bla bla bla. With two teenagers, a husband in grad school, a job, a blog and two crazy dachshunds, extra patients for baking bread is in short supply. Then I stumbled across this recipe on Pinterest and it didn't look too bad. No kneading, I was skeptical but I thought I'd give it a try. There was still some waiting and resting and rising but I realized, to quote The Dude, "that my thinking on this had become very uptight." So I rethought the whole timing and rising thing and gave it a whirl. 

Note: you need a heavy, lidded, ovenproof pot for this recipe. I used my Le Creuset French Oven which worked beautifully. I know, I know, they are way expensive, but if you can swing it, they are the best. Really its a "Magic Pot" if you ask me. But, you can use any pot that can take the heat and can be covered.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Basics: Swiss Buttercream v.2

I have a new blog crush: The Woodland Bakery Blog. I used to watch Gretchen Price's "Crumb Boss" videos on You Tube then got distracted and forgot about them. You know, busy mom, busy life, yadda, yadda, yadda. Then, for some unknown reason, I remembered about them last month and went looking for them again. I was so glad to discover that she'd converted the "Crumb Boss" channel to the "Woodland Bakery Blog/You Tube" channel. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, all her videos and so far all the recipes I've tried. She really knows what she's talking about but presents it in such a easy going way. No snooty, snobby, uppityness on her blog. Just great recipes presented in a easy to follow and fun way. I love it, I may even pull a "Julie/Julia" thing and blog my way through all her recipes. Maybe, when I come across all that extra time I seem to have misplaced.

Anywho, I was intrigued by her Swiss Buttercream recipe and decided to try that first. My first love is still Nick Malgieri's "Easy Meringue Buttercream", but I've always been wary of piping with it, specifically roses, things that need a stiffer texture to retain their shape. For piping roses, I loved the way the icing we used at the grocery store performed, the texture was perfect. The taste not so much. Kind of gritty, and basically just shortening and sugar. YUCK. Pretty similar to Wilton's basic buttercream recipe, perfect for piping but greasy, overly sweet and not much real flavor. Gretchen's recipe looked to be a hybrid of the two recipes. It had the egg white "Swiss Meringue" preparation of Nick's recipe, and the shortening/powdered sugar combo of the Wilton recipe. Could it deliver the right combination of taste and texture? Let's find out. . .

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Peppermint Patties

I love Peppermint Patties. So creamy, cool and snappy. They're a nice finish when you're looking for a little something sweet after dinner but not wanting to go for a big dessert. I usually have some around, hidden in the pantry or out in a candy dish, depends on my mood. When I saw some recipes on the old interweb for a home made version, my mind was swimming with possibilities. I usually don't go in for "copycat" candy recipes because, seriously, they are a lot of work and have a lot of components. I can spend all day in the kitchen or just run down to 7-11 a grab a Snicker's. A lot of work for not much payoff, no thanks. On the other hand, the peppermint patty recipes looked pretty simple and I usually have all the ingredients on hand. I decided I'd give 'em a try.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Chocolate Dipped Espresso Shortbread

Shortbread cookies are yummy!
Coffee flavored anything is yummy!
Chocolate dipped anything is yummy! (Well, within reason.)
So Chocolate Dipped Espresso Shortbread is YUMMY, YUMMY, YUMMY!
Did I mention these cookies are yummy?
I absolutely adore shortbread cookies, all varieties, all variations. They're just so buttery and tender and simple and delicious. This recipe used to be in my regular Christmas Cookie list (minus the chocolate dipping) and I made them every year. I really don't know when they got dropped from the list and why I forgot about them. Maybe it has something to do with getting married, having kids, and loosing my mind. Maybe? Maybe not. Anywho, I was trying to organize a sloppy folder of recipes last week and this gem fell out of the pile. Couldn't believe I'd forgotten about them so I had to make them immediately to redeem myself. Would they be as good as I remembered? Uh, YEAH!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Giant Cornflake Crunch Cookies

It's funny how things start to "trend" on the old world wide web. One person "Pins it" or "Blogs it", or "Tweets it" or "Posts it" or  "Instagrams it" or simply mentions it in an email and suddenly its "Trending". On Monday no one has heard of it and by the time you mention it to a friend on Friday, it's old news. And when I say "it" I mean anything. Celebrity gossip, world news, recipes, crafts, you name it. So what seemed to be trending the last week or so was recipes from the Momofuku Milk Bar. Which apparently is a very popular restaurant/bakery in New York. I'd never heard of it before. But it's no secret that, on trending web topics (and popular New York eateries for that matter), I'm often the last one to the party. But at least I got to the party. And what I found was a interesting, eclectic bunch of recipes. Ones with all kinds of wierdo ingredients that I couldn't help but want to try. So I did. I started with the Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookies, and next on my list is the Compost Cookies (I can't resist a cookie recipe that calls for potato chips). Check out the cornflake cookies:

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Breakfast Muffin Parfaits

I have a confession to make: I like sweets for breakfast. Seriously, if there was no nutritional downside, I'd eat danish, muffins, pancakes with syrup, donuts, waffles and coffee cake for breakfast each and every day. I admit it,  I have a raging sweet tooth and breakfast is no exception. But there is a downside. Like mega calories, no protein, lots of sugar, etc., etc., etc.. So I don't eat those things, except for occasionally on the weekends. I still want them though and these last few months I've gotten in the bad habit of having a blended mocha for breakfast. Home made, and really not too terribly loaded with calories, about 250. But no nutritional benefit. Seriously, not a redeeming ingredient in them. They're just so tasty and convenient. I can sip on them while still going about my morning routine. Then two hours later I'm crazy hungry. This is not a good habit.

My bad breakfast is not a new realization, I've know it all along, it just got time to get real with myself and kick the habit. As much as I abhor New Year's Resolutions, after the nutritional debauchery of December, I resolved to start my days with a better breakfast. This recipe looked like a good start. Some decent nutritional value, portable (I can easily take it to work), convenient (make ahead on the weekends), easy (a pretty simple recipe) and still sweet. Check it out. . .

Friday, January 10, 2014

Split Pea with Ham Soup

Every Christmas my husband and children insist that we get a "Honeybaked Ham" for Christmas dinner. Not a honey baked ham from the grocery store or Costco but a "Honeybaked Ham" from the Honeybaked Ham store. I myself am not particularly fond of ham for dinner. Not that I don't like ham, I do, but it's more a breakfast or lunch thing for me. A ham dinner just really doesn't excite me. I'll admit, a "Honeybaked Ham" is pretty good and far superior to the grocery store honey baked hams. I know this from my own taste buds and the near mutiny I had on my hands one year when I tried to get by on the cheap with a grocery store ham. I get why they want it, it's good, but it's still hard for me to fork over the $55 plus dollars for the designer brand ham. What softens the blow is that we get 3-4 dinners out of one ham. My family is happy and if you do the math: $55.00 ÷ 4 dinners = $13.75 per dinner ÷ 4 people = $3.45 per serving. No too bad. But the real reason I give into the "Honeybaked Ham" is the ham bone and the glorious pot of split pea soup that comes of it. Now I'm lukewarm on a ham dinner but I LOVE LOVE LOVE split pea soup. Seriously, there aren't enough capital letters or repeated words to express how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE split pea soup. And nothing compares to good homemade split pea soup, with a ham bone from a "Honeybaked Ham". You'll have to see for yourself. . .
(OK, seriously, don't go and spend $55 on a Honeybaked Ham just for the bone. You can usually find bone in hams at the grocery and sometimes smoked ham hocks. Either will do for this recipe.)