Saturday, January 31, 2009

Coconut Crunch Cookies

My husband enjoys football. A true lover of the game and all it stands for. I would be hard pressed to find anything he enjoys more in life than sitting in front of his high def screen, a beer in hand, and his team on the field. Add a little food in there and you have his description of the perfect day.

My in-laws are seriously devoted Steelers fans’ too, so I don’t even have to explain how excited the family is about the Superbowl this year. Me, I’m a Pats fan, always will be, but I am rooting for the Steelers this time, supporting his team and doing my part by cooking for the big day.

Along with all the beer, super sandwiches, dips and chips etc, we need a little sugar dontcha think?? A little sweetness to go along with the game? Perhaps mounds of creamy milk chocolate, mocha and caramel, Nutella on crusty bread, strawberries dipped in dark rich….oh wait…..that’s my perfect day…my bad……hold on…..back to his day. Cookies! Cookies are good football snacks! You can hold a cookie in one hand, and swing a terrible towel with the other. You can shove a cookie in your mouth and follow it with a beer chaser. Cookies. Good. Chocolate better, but cookies still good.

John loves coconut and since it’s his big day I choose a cookie loaded with coconut. The addition of the nuts gives it a nice crunch, yet you still get an almost macaroon like taste. Yes they have some chocolate chips in them too. Little somethin' for Mama. I think it’s a nice compromise don’t you?

Coconut Crunch Cookies
Printable recipe
1 cup butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
2 cups flaked coconut
1 pkg (12 ounces) milk chocolate chips
1 cup finely chopped almonds

In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and extracts. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt and gradually add it to the creamed mixture. Mix well. Stir in the coconut, chips and almonds.

Drop by the rounded teaspoon 2 inches apart on to ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 9 – 11 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for 1 minute before removing to wire rack.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Superbowl Showdown

I was honored to be one of the finalists over at Noble Pig's Superbowl showdown.

She received 1,026 entries and my Antipasto Squares made it into the top 5! I was pretty stoked. I admit it, I did a happy dance when I found out.

The big winner was Lori with her Buffalo Chicken Dip . There are some great recipes on Cathy’s site for the big game. Head on over and check them out. Her pictures of the antipasto squares are gorgeous. She made them look possibly more fantastic than they taste....okay that's not true cause they taste amazing, but they look damn good on her site. Go see!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chocolate Eclair Puff

I never seem to get away with making just one dessert for a party at my house. There is always something that someone won't eat, or doesn't like. I knew the kids wouldn't be into the strawberry dessert I made for my Mom's birthday last weekend so I made another dessert for the occasion. This Chocolate Eclair Puff. It was super simple to make and it really does taste like an eclair. A big giant chocolicious eclair.

The crust came together very quickly. Once you stir the flour in, it forms a ball. You let it sit for 5 minutes then add in the eggs one at a time. When you get to the final egg, the batter becomes smooth, really thick & almost dough-like. You'll want to use an off-set spatula to spread it into the pan. It really does puff and curl up in the oven. Kinda cool.

If you have an eclair lover in your house, this is the dessert for them. Next time I might try it with vanilla filling and real whipped cream on top. I like Cool Whip on some things, but I think this would have tasted even better with the real stuff.

This might have been a Taste of Home recipe, but I had hand written it, so I'm not totally sure. I can't remember the last time I have hand written a recipe, so it must have been a long time ago.

Chocolate Éclair Puff
Printable recipe
1 cup water
½ cup butter (do not substitute!)
1 cup all purpose flour
4 eggs

1 – 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
3 ½ cups cold milk
2 packages (3.9 ounces each) instant chocolate pudding mix

1 carton (8 ounces) whipped topping, thawed
½ cup milk chocolate or hot fudge ice cream topping
¼ cup caramel ice cream topping
1/3 cup chopped almonds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the water and butter to a boil. Add the flour all at once, and stir until a smooth ball forms. Remove from the heat. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until smooth. Spread unto greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Cool completely on wire rack.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, milk and pudding mixes until smooth. Spread over the puff and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Spread with whipped topping and drizzle with chocolate and caramel toppings. Sprinkle with almonds. Store leftovers in fridge.

I didn't have chocolate topping on hand, but I did have hot fudge sauce so I used that instead. I think you could put just about any kind of topping you'd like on this. When I try this with a vanilla pudding I must just omit the toppings completely.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Swiss & Cheddar Potato Bake

This is my entry into this months Potato Ho Down hosted by Cathy at Noble Pig.

Mitch and I put our creative juices to work last weekend and made up our own little recipe together. I had a bag of frozen hash browns and some Swiss and cheddar cheese. I wanted to make some kind of a potato casserole out of the ingredients I had, so we started trying this and that and before you know it, we had ourselves one delicious Swiss and Cheddar Potato Bake. You don't even want to know how long it took us to come up with that name. There were many variations believe you me.

What we ended up with is a creamy, cheesy melt in your mouth, it's so damn good I could heat it up again for breakfast kinda dish. It's like one big cheesy hashbrown with a crusty top.

I do believe we hit the nail on the head with this one.

Ahhh teamwork can result in such delicious results.

Swiss & Cheddar Potato Bake
Printable recipe
1 - 30 oz package Country Style Hash Browns (big red bag in the freezer section)
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
5 eggs
1/3 cup half & half
salt & pepper

In a large bowl microwave the shredded hash browns on high for 7 minutes, stir and microwave again for another 8 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through. (Mine still had a tiny "bite" to them). Set aside. In a saute pan cook the chopped onion with the oil and butter until translucent. Add to the potatoes and stir gently.

In another large bowl add the Swiss, 1 1/2 cups of the cheddar and 1/2 cup of flour. Toss to combine. In yet another bowl whisk the eggs, half & half and salt and pepper. Pour over the potato mixture, add the cheese mixture and mix until well combined. Grease a 9x13 inch pan. Spread evenly into the pan and sprinkle with 1/2 cup remaining cheddar cheese. Bake uncovered at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes or until brown and bubbly.



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Monday, January 26, 2009

Frozen Strawberry Dessert

Yesterday was my Mom's birthday. I made her and my Dad lunch. My version of surf 'n turf....grilled t-bones and teriyaki swordfish with roasted vegetables and a pesto seafood with orzo. Everything was delicious with a capital D.

I had asked my Mom earlier in the week what she wanted for dessert and she replied "something light and fruity". So off to dig into recipes for spring and summer cause that's where all my light and fruity recipes are. Into my hands fell a recipe for a frozen strawberry dessert. I could use something sweet and summery right about now (even if there are piles and piles of snow still covering the ground).

This would be absolutely fantastic during the summer. It's cool and refreshing and has really intense strawberry flavor. It reminded me of those strawberry shortcake pops we would get off the ice cream truck.

Another great thing about this needs to sit at least 8 hours in the freezer. I love "make it the night before" desserts.

Frozen Strawberry Dessert
Printable recipe
1 cup all purpose flour
¼ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup cold butter
½ cup chopped pecans
2 cups frozen, unsweetened strawberries, thawed.
(I bought whole frozen in a bag, brand name started with a W...Wyman, Wyland, something like that. They were great)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped until thickened

In a small bowl combine the flour and brown sugar; cut in the butter until crumbly. Stir in pecans. Press into ungreased 9 inch square baking pan. Bake at 250 for 14 – 16 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Crumble the baked pecan mixture and set-aside ½ cup for topping. Sprinkle the remaining mixture into an 8 inch square dish.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice until blended. Fold in whipped cream. Spread evenly into dish. Sprinkle with reserved pecan mixture. Cover and freeze for 8 hours or overnight. Let stand a half hour at room temp before cutting. In the summer it might not take that long to defrost, but in kitchen that day, it took
a half hour.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bacon & Cheese Omelette Cups

I love Saturday mornings. I get to sleep in a bit, if my internal alarm clock let’s me that is. Some weekend mornings it will, most mornings it doesn’t but that’s ok cause I am a morning person. After a minute of initial wake up I am ready to go. I know some of you just groaned at that last sentence. My husband is so not a morning person. He is a bear in the morning. A big, grumpy, coffee swilling, grunting, messy headed bear. Once given adequate amounts of caffeine and a little time, he turns back into my sweet husband again. We just ignore him until that time arrives.

That being said, I never understood how anyone could be grumpy first thing in the morning. When I was younger, if I showed the least bit of grumpiness my Pa would always say, “What’s there to be grumpy about? You just got up, nuthin’ bad even had a chance to happen yet”. When you think about it…he’s right. So I’m happy in the morning cause it’s another day that I’m up and healthy and breathing and ready to face whatever the day holds for me. Think of the alternative non-morning people, and maybe you’ll start to appreciate your mornings a bit more.

So Saturdays are the three C's day here. Cleaning, chores and cooking. We like to get everything done so that way we have Sunday to relax and be lazy. We like to start the Three C’s day off with a good breakfast. That also ensures that I don’t hear…..”I’m hungry” as an excuse to stall on chores. Fill ‘em up and get ‘em to work.

This recipe started off from a clipping stored in my recipe basket. I have no idea where I got it from. I changed it around quite a bit and made it my own. These would be great for a brunch or shower. Little mini omelettes for everyone!

Bacon & Cheese Omelette Cups

Printable recipe
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup finely chopped onions
6 large eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash, or your favorite seasoning
1 tablespoon parsley
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup bacon, cooked and crumbled
(that was 1 pound before cooking for me)
2 ½ English muffins, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 400. Grease 2 muffin pans. In a small skillet melt the butter over medium heat and cook the onion until tender. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, chives, pepper & seasoning. Stir in the cheese, crumbled bacon and crumbled English muffins. Add in the cooked onions.

I used a 1/3 cup measuring cup to fill the muffin pan. This filled each cup perfectly. Bake for 20 - 22 minutes. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes. I ran a flexible metal spatula around the edges for easy removal.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Seeking sweetness in everyday life.

That's what is says on the back of this package....

If there is anyone that knows about sweetness it's Jessie at I am the happy owner of several of her cuppie magnet sets, this one being one of the newest. Who could resist this naughty cupcake series? Not me I tell ya. I'm addicted to this little guy.

If you'd like your very own set, visit her Etsy Shop and check out all the sweet stuff she has to offer.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

One Bowl Brownies & a few gadgets

Last week when I was in Jo-Ann's Fabrics, I wandered over to the baking section of the store to browse. Well maybe I wasn't browsing per say, I did have a 50% off coupon and I was hoping to use it. While I was checking out all the goodies from Wilton, two caught my eye. The brownie Perfect Cut tool and a Combo Cutter. The Perfect Cut packaging claimed that if you poked your warm brownies with this stainless steel tools tines (wow say that 5 times fast)...... would be able to cut brownies easily with no messy edges. So when the brownies came out of the oven, while they were still warm, I poked half the pan with this gadget. The holes it made were bigger than I expected. I was worried that I wouldn't get a nice straight edge, but more of a scalloped one once the knife met the holes. So the holes were poked, and off went the brownies to cool down in the breezeway. A few hours later, knife met holes and I have to say, there was wee tiny bit of a scalloped edge left, but it really did help in making a cleaner edge. Not perfect, but better than some of my results with a knife alone. I'd give it a B+.

This is the combo cutter:

Three oval shaped brownies with one cut. They had a few other shapes...hearts and triangles, but these oval ones caught my eye. The package read that this tool maximizes the number of treats you get from one pan. Well let me tell you's true! I love this thing. I had very little waste, and the ovals looks so damn cute. Wouldn't you love to take a tray of these oval beauties to a party or bake sale? I can see lots of other possibilities besides brownies. I think I will get some use out of this uni-tasker. My rating for this tool: A+! I really liked it!

In order to use these gadgets and perform these scientific tests I needed to make some brownies. I wanted a simple one bowl brownie that I could get into the oven quickly. Off to do a food blog search. What did I find? I site called
The Cook Mobile and with the quick and easy recipe for the one bowl brownies I wanted. I decided to make the cake-like version of these for a change. I've been on a fudgy, chewy kick with the last few batches.

One Bowl Brownies - recipe from The Cook Mobile
Printable recipe
4 squares or 4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 cup pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped

Grease a 13×9-inch baking pan. Line with parchment paper or foil with an extra inch hanging on sides.

In a large microwaveable bowl, microwave unsweetened chocolate and butter on high until butter is melted, around 2 minutes. Stir until chocolate is fully melted.

Stir in sugar then add in the eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Add flour, stirring until well-blended. Mix in nuts.

Spread into prepared baking pan. Bake at 350 F until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs, around 30 to 35 minutes.

Cool in pan. Using foil or paper, lift out of pan onto cutting board. Cut into 24 squares.

For cake like brownies: Stir in 1/2 cup of milk with the eggs and vanilla and increase flour to 1 1/2 cups.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bread for a week (or more)

The bitter cold weather we have been experiencing here in Rhode Island makes it a perfect time to crank up the oven and bake some bread. My house can use all the heat it can get when the wind chill is below zero outside. Having some delicious bread in your tummy doesn’t hurt either. It was snowing again this morning. This is the 3rd weekend in a row we've had snow. As least Mother Nature is kind enough to hold off during the week.

I found this recipe in an issue of Taste of Home. The recipe was named Ezekiel’s Bread (after the bible verse). I kind have took it upon myself to re-name it, not because I don’t like the name Ezekiel, in fact when I see the name Ezekiel a few other names always pop into my head, Obadiah, Jedidiah, nice old biblical name. Anyway, the reason I re-named it is because you get four loaves out of this recipe…FOUR! That’s a lot of bread. Probably over a weeks worth for most families. Four loaves too much for you?? Oh come on, you can always throw a few loaves in the freezer or just cut the recipe in half too. Another reason I love this recipe is cause I get to break out my gigantic turn of the century bowl, which I scored for ten bucks at a yard thank you very much. Very proud of that find I tell ya. Just take a look at how much the dough had rised in that baby:

This recipe might not be for the first time bread baker, but if you have a few loaves under your belt, it’s a pretty easy one. I have to warn those of you with a Kitchen Aid mixer, this dough comes right up to the tippy top of the bowl. At one point I was afraid of over flow, but it worked.

This is the perfect bread to go along with a nice stew or soup. Hearty with a little crunch due to the wheat germ, it can stand up to a good dipping, but it would also be perfect for a sandwich.

Bread for a Weekrecipe from Taste of Home
Printable recipe

3 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast.
5 cups warm water (110 – 115), divided
1 tablespoon plus 2/3 cup honey, divided
2/3 cup canola oil
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup toasted wheat germ
6 to 8 cups bread flour

In a large mixing bowl dissolve the yeast in ¾ cup warm water and 1 tablespoon of honey. Add the remaining water and honey, the oil, sugar, salt, whole-wheat flour, wheat germs and 3 cups of bread flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining bread flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky). I added about 2 1/2 cups at this point. The bread was just starting to pull away from the mixer and the dough was very sticky.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 – 8 minutes. I gradually added in another cup of flour as I was kneading this until it got to the point that is was elastic cause the dough was just so sticky. Place in a bowl coated with cooking spray, turning once to coat the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Shape into four loaves. Place in 4 – 9x5x3 inch loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes.

Bake at 350 for 30 – 35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Granola Bars

I have to thank Ina again. This recipe came from her new cookbook Back to Basics. Granola bars and just plain ole granola in general, is one of my favorite breakfast foods. I usually make a few big triple batches of granola each each so I always have some on hand to stir into oatmeal and yogurt. I thought I'd whip up a batch of bars this time. I substituted the 1/2 cups of dried apricots and cranberries in this recipe for mixed dried fruit which contained two kind of raisins, strawberries, cherries and apricots. A little bit of everything. I did use the dates as suggested. I love dates. You can certainly use any kind of dried fruit you like. Next time I might even throw in some extra coconut and add some dried pineapple.

Portable and good for you too.

Granola Bars - recipe from Ina Garten
Printable recipe

2 cups old fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey

1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease an 8 x 12 inch baking pan. (Ok I have to comment on one thing here cause it drives me crazy.....why do all Ina's recipe call for 8x12 inch pan? All my pans are 9x13, some even clearly marked 9x13 on the bottom. Does she have some secret stash of pans that are an inch smaller then the rest of us?? I love ya Ina, but that drives me bonkers.) Ok now that we have that cleared up. Grease a 9x13 inch pan and line it with parchment paper.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake 10 - 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Mine took 14 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300.

Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for one minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dried fruit and stir well.

Pour the mixture into a the pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press into the pan. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature. Stored in a covered container.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Comfy Cozy Blankies

Isn’t it funny how families come up with their own little names or saying for things. In our house we call peroxide “bubble juice”, a name that it was given years ago as we held many a skinned knee over the bathroom sink. Slippers are called “pu-puns”, and when something is icky or yucky we say it’s “ca-ca putz”. Strange I know but not one of us in this house questions the strangeness of it all. Which brings us to the title of this post. Comfy Cozies. Let me explain comfy cozies in further detail. We use this term for a variety of different circumstances. For instance:

When you are getting settled on the couch and there is a little chill in the room you might call to one of your sons and say, “Please get Mama a comfy cozy, I’m freezing”

Or perhaps you have just eaten a delicious beef stew and with your belly warm and satisfied you would say, “Oh now my tummy is all comfy cozy”.

Cold feet? Not a problem “I love these comfy cozy socks that Grandma got me for Christmas”.

New sweater? “This is so warm I am totally comfy cozy in it”.

Cuppa tea and a magazine “I’m just going to relax and get all comfy cozy on the couch”.

Hot cocoa? “Drink this, it will make you all comfy cozy inside”

We use it a lot, but it is most referred to when we are discussing throws and blankets. One blanket in particular is the comfiest and coziest of them all, the thick fleece Steelers blanket that John’s Aunt made for him. With two layers of fleece, it is the warmest, and most sought after blanket in the house. In fact, John just stole it back after Jesse kidnapped it for well over 6 months. In order to bring some order back into the house, I decided that it was time for the boys to have their very own comfy cozies. The Steelers blanket was one of those no sew, cut and tie blankets. So Monday night the boys and I headed out to Jo-Ann Fabrics to pick out the fleece of their choice. Once we got to the material section we were tickled to see that Jo-Ann’s was having a 50% off sale on fleece blanket kits. The prices were much cheaper than the fleece by the yard, so they picked out two they liked, Jesse a cosmic/celestial one and Evan a Wall-E themed one.

We couldn’t have picked a better time to make these blankets. Bitter cold has gripped most of the east coast, and to say it is frigid is an understatement, so it was perfect timing for warm, thick blankies. Tonight we pushed the coffee table off to the side, spread the fleece across the living room and the boys got started on comfy cozy production.

There was lots of cutting..

....lots and lots.

Did I mention.....lots?

Then the tying began.

So they tied and tied and after a few hours, and many tired fingers, we had two completed comfy cozies.

Even Moose couldn't resist the coziness of the new blankies.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Livin' on the Edge

Do my friends know me or what? Eva bought me the Bakers' Edge brownie pan for Christmas. I had been eyeing it for quite some time, so I was ecstatic when I received it as a gift from her. I'm surprised it took me this long to use it. After all the sweets we had during the holidays, I'm surprised I'm still baking, but I just can't help myself. My neighbors and co-workers aren't complaining. They all get to share the love. I did nibble off a corner strictly for feedback purposes. I wanted to have a big fat piece, but I am resisting. That corner sure was good and John assured me that the whole big piece he had was moist through and through.

For those of you who haven't heard of it, it's a brownie pan for people who love the edges. I love the brownie edges. I know there are "middle people" who will automatically go for the soft center, but I always go for the crispy edges, be it brownies or lasagna or baked ziti.

I picked the
Marbled Cheesecake Brownies for my first use. I can't begin to tell you how well this pan bakes a brownie. They cooked so evenly. Sometimes the brownie edges get a little over done and the center is still gooey, not with this pan. They cooked completely evenly.

The folks at Baker's Edge are coming out with a lasagna pan in a few months. Can you imagine lasagna where the layers don't slide into each other? Oh I can't wait. Could be the perfect Mothers Day gift. Honey are you reading this?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Gingerbread Snacking Cake

Oh what a week it's been.

Going back to work after 2 weeks of vacation time is so not fun. I had so much to catch up on. I felt like I had been away a year, not just a few weeks. We had some issues with Jesse in school which only added to the stress and had my stomach in knots. I was so ready for the weekend and to get back to baking. To non-bakers that might sound strange but there is a certain comfort in baking for me. It calms all my senses. The scent of cinnamon in the air, the sound of the teaspoons tapping against tins, the purring of the mixer, the teakettle whistle, the warmness the oven brings to the kitchen. It put me back where I needed to be and that was in the kitchen with a great recipe.

Thanks to the ladies at
Bread & Honey, I decided to make some Gingerbread Cake. We are getting yet another snow storm and I can't think of anything much better than a piece of warm gingerbread cake to coax me into a lazy weekend. Well as lazy as it can be for me, yes I cleaned the house a bit this morning, and did laundry and some crafting, but after that, it's gonna be pure, unadulterated laziness for us. Well, laziness accompanied by terrific gingerbread cake and a nice cuppa tea.

I made this recipe exactly the way Summer did over at her blog. I used half molassas and half pure maple sugar and let me tell you....this is the gingerbread cake you want to make.

Gingerbread Snacking Cake - from Martha Stewart Living/Bread & Honey Blog
Printable recipe
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup unsulfured molasses (I ran out and used 1/2 cup molasses and 1/2 cup pure maple syrup and it worked perfectly)
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-by-13-inch cake pan; set aside. (I used Baker's Joy, as always)

In a bowl, combine boiling water and baking soda; set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, ground spices, salt, and baking powder; set aside.

With an an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter until light. Beat in brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in molasses and grated ginger, baking-soda mixture, and flour mixture. Beat in eggs.

Pour batter into prepared pan; bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes (mine tested done at 40). Let cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares; dust with confectioners’ sugar or whipped cream.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Oh brother.

I know those of you out there who are mothers of brothers will understand this post. I have 2 boys, one 12 and one 13. Irish Twins. That's what I heard a lot when I got pregnant with Evan. I had 2 babies in 2 years. I was ecstatic. I would daydream when they were little about how they would be each other's best friend when they got older. I grew up the only girl in my family and I had often wished I had a sister to play with. I was so happy knowing that my boys would have each other, and they did. As toddlers they were inseparable, often mistaken for twins when we went out, they were each others best friends. There were countless nights of Lego building, hours spent drawing and coloring side by side, and lots of nights of cuddling up together under their blanket forts. They liked the same things....Thomas the Tank Engine, Blue's Clues, the beach, going for a ride in their Red Flyer wagon, chocolate cupcakes, bubble baths, foot rubs, Beatle lullabies and a long story before bed.

Whenever they went somewhere without each other they always thought of each other. In the bank when the teller would hand Jesse a lollipop, he would immediately say "can I have one for my brother please?". Evan would do the same thing. They really liked each other. They shared everything...friends, clothes, food, games.....they just liked being around each other.

Fast forward 13 years or so and man how that has all changed. Don't get me wrong, they do get along, just not always. There is bickering and fighting. Sometimes there raised voices, and lots of "MOM....GET HIM AWAY FROM ME's" They are different people now. They have different likes and dislikes. They have different friends, different styles, different temperaments...different lives.

Last night I sat in the living room and they were both huddled together on the couch playing with Jesse's iPod Touch. They were giggling and laughing together. Evan was resting his head on Jesse's shoulder and Jesse didn't even complain or say "get offa me". I was amazed. I had to sneak out to get my camera, cause I knew I had to capture these moments so that the next time they start to bicker and argue I have photographic evidence that they really do like each other..... sometimes.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Millie's Quick Dessert Cake

This is a recipe that my Grandmother Millie, aka klepto ring stealer, made for many, many years. It was her "go to" recipe. The ingredients were usually always in the house and it came together quickly, so if you find out in the morning that you have company coming for dinner, you can whip this baby up in no time at all. The toppings are endless. You could serve it to the same guests again and again and make it totally different.

My favorite version is apple and blueberry. That fact that you can use a a pie filling as a topping comes in handy too. Yes you can use PIE a CAN! Don't judge me people.

Most of the time I use Cracker Barrel's Fried Apples. They are so good. Anyone whose eaten this at the restaurant knows what I'm talkin' about. I chop them up just a bit then top the cake with them. Next comes my frozen blueberry stash from this past summer. No need to defrsot them, just drop them in straight from the freezer. It's such a great combination.

Just think of all of the different versions you can make with this cake....peaches in the summer...topped with fresh whipped cream....summer dessert heaven! Once I made it with pineapple pie filling and coconut. Tropically delicious. I have also used Comstocks "Country Apple" filling when I'm out of the Cracker Barrel Fried Apples. I did have a jar in the cupboard so this version was the Fried Apple & Blueberry.

Here's what the topping looks like before it goes in the oven. Don't worry all those apples and berries will sink into the cake.

After it comes out of the oven, all golden and delicious.

Every time I make this cake I think of my Gram. She's still with us, but with the Alzheimer's, not so much, if you know what I mean. When I take this cake out of the oven I can see her with her apron on, standing in her kitchen, shaking on the powered sugar, bringing a piece over to my Pa and he would always say "Thank you darlin' ". It's a very good memory for a cake to have.

Millie's Quick Dessert Cake
Printable recipe
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, (room temp)
2 cups flour
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 – 21 ounce can of fruit pie filling or fresh fruit or whatever else you think might taste good!
Powered sugar for dusting.

Preheat the oven to 350.

In large bowl cream together butter & sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the almond extract. Whisk the flour & baking powder together and add it to the mixture. Beat until smooth. The batter will be thick. Grease a 9x13 inch pan. Spread batter evenly into the pan. Take pie filling or fruit and scatter all over the top of the cake. Don't be afriad to put some of the juicy part of the filling on there too. It will all will sink into cake as it bakes.

Bake for 45 - 50 minutes until golden brown, or until tests done. *Check the center! Cool, dust with powered sugar.

This cake is going to my nephews birthday party today. It will be gobbled up before the store bought brithday cake....never fails.

Note: I have great success using my very seasoned Pampered Chef stoneware pan when I make this. The stoneware prevents it from becoming mushy in the center, but if you don’t have stoneware, don’t worry, just use a Pyrex baking dish and check to make sure the middle is baked through.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Creamy Potato & Leek Soup with Pancetta

It's another blustry day in Rhode Island. Wind chillin' cold is knockin at my door. I'm not lettin' it in. In fact I'm going to kick it to the curb with a hearty and creamy bowl of soup. Then after a long day of taking down all the Christmas decorations, making over 50 meatballs for future dinners, and finally getting my house back to normal, I am going to park my behind on the couch and watch movies (New Indiana Jones...I know I'm a bit behind the times when it comes to movies.) I am going to snuggle under a warm comfy blankie with my husband. I might even make us both some homemade hot moco-cocoa. It's gonna be a good night.

I found this recipe on a blog called Mennonite Girls Can Cook. I had no doubt that they couldn't. Lot's of great recipes - check them out. I adapted it a bit here and there, and made the addition of pancetta.

Creamy Potato & Leek Soup with Pancetta
Printable recipe
2 tablespoons butter
2 bay leaves
1 large or 2 small leeks, cleaned & sliced thin
1 medium yellow onion or 3 medium chipolte onions (I used the chilpolte's cause I had them in the fridge for almost 2 weeks now!)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 to 6 medium potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thin (skin on or off) - I used 6 medium red potatoes.
7 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup of half & half
1/4 cup diced pancetta, cooked until crisp -
I buy mine at Trader Joes, all ready diced fine in a 4oz package. Total convenience!
salt & pepper
2 bay leaves
Pinch basil
Pinch tarragon

In a large heavy bottomed stock pot cook the pancetta until golden and crispy. Remove from the pan with a strainer and set aside, leaving the remaining oil in the pan. Add the onions, leeks, garlic and 2 tablespoons of butter. Cook over medium high heat until onion and leeks are just beginning to turn golden.

Add in the sliced potatoes, chicken broth, half & half and 2 bay leaves. You want the broth to cover the potatoes. At this point you can add what you like for seasoning. I added in salt, pepper, a pinch of tarragon, and another pinch of basil. Up to a full cup of half & half, or heavy cream can be added to this recipe, but I found just a 1/2 cup of half & half made it creamy enough.

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a slow simmer. This batch cooked about 45 minutes. I stirred it every once in awhile to break the potatoes up a bit. I didn't skin my potatoes. Once the potatoes seemed like they were breaking down, I took my stick blender and mixed it for about 30 seconds. I didn't want to break up all the potato pieces. I wanted to leave some whole. If you'd like a true "creamy" soup, you can certainly blender it longer. The last step is to add the pancetta back in.

A soup that will warm your bones.

Mocha Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

Mocha. One of my favorite flavors. Maple, another favorite. Why not combine the two? Ok...done! I haven't made cupcakes in a while. This is yet another New Years Eve recipe. I figured cupcakes would be better than a big heavy dessert. Little portable handful's of goodness.

I found the cupcake recipe on
Janet is Hungry. Her recipe had a mousse filling. Well let me tell you. The mousse did not work out for me. I made a batch and it was a total mess. It came out goopy and really not that flavorful at all so I opted to just ditch the mousse and make some buttercream frosting. While my frosting was mixing away, my brain was churning trying to figure out what else I could add to kick it up a notch. After a quick visit to my spice cupboard, I came back with a bottle of maple extract in hand.....a few splashes later....maple buttercream frosting. To die for.

It must have been a hit cause I had to stop Tati from removing the frosting off the cupcakes to eat it separately. Definitely some good eats. The mocha cupcake recipe is here.

Here's my recipe for the Maple Buttercream Frosting:

Buttercream Frosting
6 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
2 ounces shortening
1 egg, room temperature
1-pound confectionery sugar
1-teaspoon vanilla extract

Approximately 1/2 teaspoon of maple extract

In a mixer with a paddle attachment beat the butter and shortening until light and fluffy, about 3 – 4 minutes. Add the egg and beat until combined, about 2 more minutes at high speed. Work in the pound of confectionery sugar a ½ a cup at a time. Turn the machine off when you add each addition, re-starting it slowly each time. Once all the sugar has been added add in the vanilla and beat until frosting is smooth and light, about 3 minutes. If you are not using immediately, store in fridge. Let frosting come to room temp before spreading.