Friday, January 30, 2009

Happy Valentine's & Mother's Day to me!

Yay, my Honey ordered me  a new Dell laptop!  While he didn't say it was for any special occasion other than I've been "hogging" the computer I figured it could be my Valentine's & Mother's Day gift.  I'll need to remember I agreed to that when he shows up with only a card!   :-)

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cheater Snicker Brownies

DSC00898 Yup, I did it again I cheated and used a boxed brownie mix.  Yes, they probably would have tasted a bit better if I had made the brownies by scratch AND a whole lot better if I  had made homemade caramel sauce but I needed a quick something for the Twins to take to baseball practice this is what I came up with.  I'll be honest I was initially going to make Dianne's Peanut Butter Mousse Bars but I ran out of time as I had already made another dessert, a tropical pound cake (a la The Crepes of Wrath).  That one was for the kids could take to school for lunch. 

It starts with one box of brownie mix whichever you prefer.  Follow the directions as written on the back.  Once poured into the pan I topped it with chopped up pieces of snickers bars.  I then baked it as called for on the box.  Once the brownies were baked I noticed that the snicker pieces had sunk and left (interesting) holes in my brownies so I chopped up more snickers bars to plop in the holes once the brownies had cooled completely.  After filling the holes I nuked some caramel bits with cream and drizzled it over the brownies.  I also melted some semisweet chocolate chips and shortening and drizzled it over the brownies.  (I'd love to give you exact numbers but it was after 11:30 & I was TIRED so I kinda winged it) 


I personally didn't care for the brownies  but the Twins, their teammates, and the other parents ate them up without complaint so I'll take that as they were at least edible.  Actually there wasn't even a piece of fallen off snickers bar left in the pan. The butterscotch marshmallow brownies with butterscotch ganache was waaaaaaaaaaaay better.  As a matter of fact I made them again last night.

*On a non-baking note

Baseball season kicks off this weekend for the Twins.....GO STING!  They have moved up to the "big" fields.  Should be fun, wish us luck!  

Can I take a moment to brag a bit on one of the twins?  Devon is receiving an academic award from Mid Florida Pop Warner on the 28th of Feb.   At that time he'll find out if he's also been selected to receive a scholarship!  (I don't know all the details.) It's not going to pay for school but I'm thinking maybe books?! Still that's not too bad for 12 yrs old! (Jalen, I  LOVE and am proud of you as well!  You just don't play football! { I have to say this otherwise the one thinks I favor the other one which means I love one twin more than the other one. To answer you question, yes!})

I also wanted let you know that I've been reading a terrific book called The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan.  The book is both touching and funny.  I definitely suggest reading  it if you haven't.  I've also found quite a few clips of Kelly reading excerpts from the book.  I guarantee it will have you laughing out loud and tearing up!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tropical Pound Cake

DSC00920 Last week one of the Twins asked if I could make him something to pack in his lunch along with his sandwich.  Yes, of course I can.  I didn't bother to ask him what he would like as I already knew, Snickerdoodle Blondies (thanks, Julia!) would be his response.  I instead told him that I would surprise him.  As it happens earlier in the day I had seen photos of a yummy Pineapple Bundt Cake w/Lemon Drizzle on The Crepes of Wrath.  The moment I saw the photos and read through the ingredients I thought tropical....I could replace all the lemon with coconut and add some macadamia nuts making it more of a tropical flavored cake.  With that in mind and the request in hand I knew what I would make.

Here are my changes to the recipe

  • I replaced all of the lemon extract with coconut extract. 
  • Instead of using regular milk in the drizzle I used coconut milk.

Here's what I will do next time.

  • I will add some shredded coconut to the batter. (and see what happens)
  • I will sprinkle some toasted macadamia nuts to the top after drizzling the cake. (I would have this time but the nuts I had stored in the fridge were not looking good.)

DSC00912 The kids were pleased with the cake as it was a change from the flavors of Christmas. Their sitter who doesn't even like  pineapple ate a few pieces.  She said she didn't realize their was pineapple in it.  I really liked the cake but the best part was the smell of the coconut drizzle!  It was  heavenly!  The cake itself  very moist and the flavors developed more after a day or so. I also thought the cake was more along the lines of a pound cake.  It had a tighter, dense crumb.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Butterscotch Marshmallow Brownies with Butterscotch Ganache

DSC00897 This couldn't have been easier or yummier! Some of you may cringe when you read this but I used a boxed brownie mix! Yup, it was after nine, the boys had friends over to watch a movie and I knew they were expecting me to bake 'em something yummy. Because I couldn't just make 'em boxed brownies (I've got a rep with these boys as being the Mama whose house you want to eat at)I decided to kick 'em a notch or two or three. I added two hand fulls of butterscotch chips and about three hand fulls of marshmallows to the batter. Remembering I had some butterscotch ganache in the fridge I decided to drizzle some over the cooled brownies.


They were a hit! I had to stop the boys at two! (I needed to save a few for tomorrow's photo session) I managed to control myself and eat only one but I wanted a second!


**Update, I totally forgot to mention, the Butterscotch Ganache was one I made using Bakerella's recipe. I've added the links. Sorry!


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An award & off on a tangent

lovely_blog_awardThank you Jodi for the lovely award.  Jodi has a wonderful blog herself called Live Today, Cherish Yesterday, Dream Tomorrow.  Isn't that a great name?  I love it.  A thought we all need to keep in mind.

The rules to accept this award are to link to the person who gave you the award as well as select seven bloggers to pass this award on to.

I hate passing on awards.  Okay, that didn't come out right.  I hate having to chose a few bloggers that I'm supposed to pass an award to.  You've it heard before I know but there are so many really good blogs out there and not just the "famous" ones but ones that are entertaining, thought provoking, or have tried and true recipes that they are passing along. It's difficult to chose.  When you're new to blogging getting those first couple of awards are exhilarating and keep you motivated in trying to put your best foot forward. 

I'm comfortable with my blog. I'm never going to write a cookbook, win awards for outstanding photography, or write witty passages that everyone is anxious to read.  I'm the "every man's" blog.  Maybe one day I'm funny, the next an interesting recipe, another a really good photo, and hopefully once in a while something thought provoking.  What I'm hoping my blog accomplishes if anything is for it to encourage bakers such as myself to get out of their comfort zone and into their kitchens.  'Cause if I can YOU sure can!

Where'd that come from?  I guess in reading some of the New Year's posts it's gotten me thinking about where I want to go with all this.  While I'd of course like to get more daring in my baking, better at my writing and  photography I'm happy with what I have here in my teeny tiny piece of the blogosphere.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

S'mores Cheesecake

DSC00877 Hmmmm, what to say?  Aaaaa, duh it's S'mores Cheesecake!  Was it good? Yes! Would I make it again?  Yes, with a few more changes.  I already made a couple of minor ones, the most significant was the use of semisweet and bittersweet chocolates instead of milk.  I liked it and the kids enjoyed it but I think they would have liked it more had I used all semisweet.   Though I made a bit more crust I think the next time I'll  double the recipe so I get lots of that graham cracker S'mores-y flavor.  I'm not messing with the top. Everyone agreed the marshmallow meringue topping was awesome.  I thought just the right amount of marshmallow.  Well, I would have liked more but it would have been overkill.

This recipe comes by way of the blog Sugar on Top.

Unfortunately I didn't take a photo of a slice of the cheesecake.  :-( I only got a bunch of the top.  I'm not sure why I didn't?  Anyway here's the link to the recipe.

Oh, before serving I sprinkled graham cracker crumbs over each slice.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

FYI: Operation No Kid Left Hungry!

The following is a direct copy from Cassie's blog How to Eat a Cupcake (Thx!)  She was recently contacted by Kari Rippetoe of Share Our Strength and asked to say a few words about their new program, "Operation No Kid Hungry" on her blog.  I think it's a great cause and wanted to pass along the information to you.  I, myself know of two communities close to my office that have families that struggle to keep food on the table, the electricity on, and clothes on their children's back.   Starving children/families are a lot closer to home than we realize.  For me it's so close I can literally throw a rock there.  I'm very fortunate to work for a company that has given me money for the past four years to provide "Christmas" and  a "Christmas Dinner" to the children (41 this year) of those communities.  It's not a lot but I know at least one day out of the year they are eating well and exactly what my children are a ham dinner with all the fixin's and that there are also a few gifts from Santa with their names on it.

Share Our Strength has launched a brand new campaign to raise funds to help end childhood hunger. "Operation No Kid Hungry" responds to President-elect Obama's call to action to end childhood hunger by 2015. Share Our Strength has partnered with AT&T to offer two great ways that you can support and participate in "Operation No Kid Hungry":

  1. Donate by text: Text "SHARE" to 20222 on your mobile device to donate $5. AT&T will match all text donations up to $100,000. Find out more here.
  2. Hold a food drive: Beginning January 19th, a national day of community service, help feed those in need by holding your own community food drive. Visit to find a food bank and a list of the most needed nutritious foods.

For more information about "Operation No Kid Hungry" and how you can help end childhood hunger, visit Share Our Strength's website:  There are also more ways you can help get the word out, including banners for your blog and social networking pages here.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Cranberry Vanilla Coffeecake

Here it is short and sweet...if you like cranberries and enjoy coffee cakes that are not too sweet than this one is for you! 


I made this on Friday night when Jalen had two of his buddies over to hang out and play Wii.  It wouldn't have been my first choice as a dessert for the kids but I had cranberries that either needed to be used or thrown out and I remembered enjoying the photos of this cake on the blog Lottie & Doof.  I wasn't certain how well it would go over but I shouldn't have worried each of the four kids had TWO pieces.  Yeah, it was good!

Out of necessity I made a few changes to the recipe.  I highlighted 'em in red for ya!

Cranberry Vanilla Coffeecake (adapted from the December issue of Gourmet)

Make sure you read the directions carefully, the vanilla sugar you make ends up getting divided between the cake, filling and topping.

  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste)
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (6 oz)
  • 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (I used kosher sea salt)
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (I used 2%)

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Generously butter a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan (I used a square 8x2 in pan). Line bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter parchment (I lined the pan with nonstick aluminum foil leaving an overhang as "handles" and then sprayed the foil with Baker's Joy).

Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a food processor with tip of a paring knife (reserve pod for another use if desired). Add sugar and pulse to combine. Transfer to a bowl.  (This is where I really strayed from the recipe.  I didn't have any vanilla beans so I had to improvise.  I put the sugar in a medium bowl and added 3/4 tsp vanilla bean paste.  I mixed it well with a fork.  I then added another 3/4 tsp.  You could probably add the whole thing at once but I was trying to follow the recipe as best as I could.  After adding the first 3/4 tsp I realized that the sugar need more vanilla to make it vanilla sugar.  I probably could have done this in the food processor.)

Pulse cranberries with 1/2 cup vanilla sugar in processor until finely chopped (do not purée), set aside. (The cranberries become very juicy as they macerate.  Use a slotted spoon if you're concerned about the amount of juice.)

Whisk together 2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat together 1 stick butter and 1 cup vanilla sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down side and bottom of bowl. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour, until just combined. Spread half of batter (it will be thick) in pan, then spoon cranberries over it, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge. Top with remaining batter and smooth top (I added the top batter in five blobs and then spread them out until they met.) Blend remaining 1/4 cup vanilla sugar with remaining Tbsp each of butter and flour using your fingertips. Crumble over top of cake. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into cake (not into cranberry filling) comes out clean and side begins to pull away from pan, 45 to 50 minutes (I baked mine for 34 min).

Cool in pan 30 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely, crumb side up. (I don't know how you nicely get the cake out unless you do like I did and lined it with foil to lift it out.) Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.


Btw, I used my new Lowel EGO light!  I need to get the hang of it but I hope in no time you'll see a marked improvement to my photos!


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Saturday, January 10, 2009

New Year's Eve goodies

I volunteered to make desserts for a New Year's Eve party we were attending at a neighbor's house.  For me that was rather daring as I'm very leery about making anything to bring to an adult function.  I have found that adults are much more critical and down right picky.  On the other hand I LOOOOOVE baking for my children, their friends and teammates.  Everything I bake for them is always well received and if someone doesn't like something (rare) they are always very polite when telling me so!  By the end of the night everything was gobbled up which I'll take as a sign of success!

The first dessert I made was one the White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Bars which I blogged about earlier this week. 


The next dessert I made was one I found over on My Baking Addiction.  Jamie made her Chocolate Toffee Trifle in stemless wine glasses which I thought would translate well into minis. I figured after eating and drinking so much no one would have room for a full sized dessert.  Also if everything was bite sized it would be easier for everyone to try a bite of all three desserts with limited waste.  My minis were good in theory but in practice, I was beat and didn't have the patience to pipe everything into my shot glasses.  Instead they got the trifle in a large trifle bowl...self serve style!


Have I admitted to not really liking "plain" brownies or chocolate pudding? Have I also mentioned that for me cool whip and toffee are just okay BUT in this dessert something magical happens with these ingredients!  I couldn't get enough (didn't want to look like a piggy) of it.  I loved the the various textures and the taste of everything combined!


The last dessert I made was one I found on the inside of the wrapper of Ghirardelli's white chocolate bars.  On the wrapper it was called Ghirardelli Classic White Blondies. I found the recipe online under the name Classic Blondies.  Which ever name you chose to call it by it was very good and was the first to go.  (I think it helped that you didn't need any serving utensils, plate, or napkin!) It's texture was more cakey than fudgey (sp?) but not overly so as I have found that I don't care for cakey blondies or brownies.  I didn't make any changes to the recipe other than baking mine in a 11x7 inch pan.  I also lined it with nonstick foil before greasing it.


Here's a photo of the three desserts displayed in all their glory (ha-ha)!  The food wasn't  set out yet  so the table looks kinda bland but once they placed the food, the table looked very nice.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Wii Fit & getting into shape!

At the Game Stop website they are taking pre-orders for Wii Fit bundles. It looks like they are scheduled to ship on Friday, January 9th! I just called my Honey and he ordered me one. Yay!! That's the good news. The bad news is I now have absolutely no reason not to be out of the kitchen and exercising as not only has he ordered the Wii Fit for me, he also set up my "mack daddy" treadmill that has been collecting dust. Did I mention we also have a Bowflex? In my defense he did ordered that for himself years ago. I didn't make losing weight a new year's resolution. Regardless of the time of year I needed to stop eating so late and work at getting fit. FYI, I've now gained about 18 pounds since starting my blog! Yikes! At barely 5'3" that's like gaining 25!! Wish me luck.....ha-ha!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Three times in 7 must be good!

 DSC00820 I know that TWD made Dorie's Tall & Creamy Cheesecake last week but this cheesecake (White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Bars) is really very good as well as being easy.  I had every intention of giving Dories' cheesecake a try. With their yummy photos and delightful descriptions both Jaime and Cristine had me convinced that I was crazy not to try it.  But when I mentioned to my family that I was making cheesecake but not the white chocolate raspberry one they complained so much that I went with it and saved the tall & creamy for another occasion.  One where I don't tell them what I'm making so there are no complaints! 

The last one I baked was for a New Year's Eve bash at my neighbors.  There was nary a crumb left over and I was told that I needed to make another one pronto, so I'm thinking it was good!

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Bars           by Kraft Foods

Prep Time:
20 min

Total Time:
4 hr 48 min

9 servings (I got 16 but cut them into small pieces)

What You Need

12 OREO Cookies, finely crushed (I used 16, and not finely crushed)

2 Tbsp.  butter, melted (I added a smidged more)

3 (1 oz) squares of BAKER'S White Chocolate, divided (I used Ghirardelli)

2 pkg.  (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp.  vanilla

2 eggs

1/4 cup  red raspberry preserves (about 1/2 cup)

Now Make It

HEAT oven to 350ºF. Mix cookie crumbs and butter; press onto bottom of 8- or 9-inch square pan. Melt 2 (I used 3oz ) chocolate squares as directed on package.

BEAT cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with mixer until blended. Add melted chocolate; mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over crust.

BAKE 25 to 28 min. or until center is almost set. Cool 5 min.; spread with preserves (I warmed the preserves in the microwave so that it spread easier). Melt remaining chocolate square; drizzle over cheesecake. Cool cheesecake completely. Refrigerate 4 hours.


Kraft Kitchens Tips

*Healthy Living

Save 60 calories and 7 grams of fat per serving by preparing with Reduced Fat OREO Cookies, PHILADELPHIA Neufchatel Cheese and egg whites.

*How to Double Recipe, (they offered this suggestion online but I got the recipe out of their magazine otherwise I would have made a double!)

This recipe can be easily doubled. Just prepare as directed, doubling all ingredients and baking in 13x9-inch pan. Makes 18 servings.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Foodie's Dream Store

Have you guys heard of a "grocery" store called The Fresh Market?  If so how come you didn't tell me about it!!!  That place is pretty incredible.  Initially I thought I was going to a Whole Foods Market but when I got there is was actually The Fresh Market.  Besides being a beautifully laid out store and having a plethora of knowledgeable employees it has everything a gourmet wannabe could possibly need!  They had nuts, dried fruit, fresh cheese, and a variety of other delights which could be purchased in small amounts.  They had an assortment of imported olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Their bakery had an abundance of fresh baked bread and wonderful desserts, the kind that wouldn't make you think twice about buying one (you know what I mean, the "I can make that at home" thought).  They had a fabulous selection of honeys and preserves.  If you are looking for a particular bottle of wine or alcoholic beverage if they don't have it then it's probably not sold.  I found Ciao Bella Gelatos.  I got a coconut sorbetto.  They had MEYER lemons!  I bought three.  They also had blood oranges. I grabbed two.   (I need recipes that best showcase these fruits! HELP!)  There was a cool selection of spices and herbs sold in small baggies.  I finally purchased some cardamom.  I was able to purchase a small packet of it instead of a full bottle at $10.  Yay! Oh, and they had an olive bar.  There I cautiously bought a small serving of marinated feta cheese with kalamata and green olives and I also got an even smaller serving of fresh mozzarella cheese in olive oil, garlic, and herbs!  After snacking on them all evening (there now gone) I wish I had gotten healthier portions of each.  They were divine!  I'm pretty certain the patrons and employees there this afternoon thought I was a big dummy as I oohh'ed and aaahh'ed my way through the store.  The whole time I was there I kept wishing for my camera.   The only little tiny I problem I saw was that NOTHING was cheap.   That's definitely not the place you want to do your weekly groceries at but it wouldn't be too bad as a once a month place to get those foodie staples that last for a few months.  As Arnold said , I'll be BAACK!

Here's a couple of photos.  I meant to take one fresh mozzarella but unfortunately I ate those as I was taking photos of the other stuff and before I knew it they were gone!

DSC00873   DSC00874

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Saturday, January 3, 2009

I'm a weeenner!

In December Jamie of the wonderful blog My Baking Addiction hosted a holiday giveaway.  Guess who won?  Yup, me!  Here's what came in the mail the week of Christmas..........


Look at a close up of the jumbo snowflake sprinkles.  These are seriously jumbo!  :-)


The swirl chips have been long gone sprinkled on top of brownies to spruce them up a bit! As for the  food coloring, sprinkles,and cookie cutters they got quite the workout on Christmas Eve with Joe and Babygirl's Santa cookies (sugar cookies with lost of icing and sprinkles)!  Thank you Jamie for the AWESOME prize!   It all went to good use and the cookie cutters will be the "gift" that keeps on giving! :-)


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