Tuesday, December 21, 2010

EPIC FAIL Macarons

Dang it!

It was beginners luck.

In my previous post, you may have read about my first attempt at making macarons. They came out absolutely perfect, and I was mighty proud. "What's the big deal," I thought. They're a snap!

Well, as the proverb says, "Pride goeth before the fall."

And boy, did my macarons fall.

After my first batch of lovely macarons, I decided to make more to impress friends and family, and in keeping with the Christmas theme, I decided this time to make green shells. I had visions of delivering boxes of macarons to colleagues, friends, and neighbors. I would watch the look of total amazement come over their faces as they bit into their first macaron. And then, I would humbly accept all their praise and compliments.

Ooops. I think there is a life lesson to be learned here.

I thought I followed the exact same method of making the macarons as before. But, something went horribly wrong. Even Ms. Humble's blog post dedicated to troubleshooting macarons could not explain...


As we say in Utah, "What the heck?!"
I give you my entry for the Ugliest Macaron Contest.

I won't tell you what my kids think is on top of that macaron on the right, but I bet you can guess. I have no idea what happened, but interestingly enough, the cookies tasted great. It didn't take any time at all for the family to finish them off, and we all had a good laugh.

Will that be my last attempt at macarons? Noooo. I'm planning to get back on that horse and try again. I will not be defeated! Macarons, here I come!

Stay tuned...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Macarons—Peppermint with Chocolate Ganache Filling

I finally gave them a try—macarons.

I would venture to guess that 99.9% of Utahns have never heard of these cookies, and I only learned of them about a year ago when I discovered a fun food blog, Not So Humble Pie. After long experimenting and perfecting, Ms. Humble has written multiple blog entries about macarons with amazing sounding recipes and photographs. I think it was her exhaustive troubleshooting post that made me most apprehensive about attempting to make the cookies. If so many things could possibly go wrong, they must be difficult, right?

I then discovered that macarons have been the trendy thing among food bloggers for a while now. When I googled "macaron recipe," it came up with 75 pages. So many different colors and flavor combinations, so many wonderful photographs, so many detailed descriptions of these little confectionery delights—I knew I must try one for myself.

I began my hunt. And, it wasn't easy. Utah tends to usually be a few years behind when it comes to trends. I first looked in all the grocery stores. Nothing. I moved on to the bakeries. Nada. I even went to a French bakery. Absolument rien. Finally after six months, I found a box of macarons at Trader Joes while on vacation in California. And even though some of the shells were cracked, the family and I thought they were pretty darn fantastic.

The ideal macaron is perfectly round. The shells are characterized by smooth, domed tops with ruffled bottoms. This bottoms are called the feet, but I find that kind of gross because it reminds me of dissecting a clam in junior high biology. The shells should have an egg shell-like crust with a moist and airy interior. They should practically melt in your mouth. Macarons are commonly filled with a frosting, ganache, or jam filling which is sandwiched between two shells. The Mecca of Macarons seems to be the Pierre Herme bakery in Paris. Someday, I hope to check it out.

So, for this first attempt at making macarons, I decided to go with the easiest looking recipe I could find. I decided to set my expectations very low. I would consider the venture a success if my cookies turned out somewhat round, and it would be OK if they didn't have the all-important feet ruffles. As I searched through recipes, I immediately threw out anything metric. Not only am I a mathematically challenged American, I do not own a kitchen scale. I decided I'd invest in a scale, if this first attempt was marginally successful.

Since it's the Christmas season, I decided to go with a recipe from Gourmet or Gourmand for peppermint macarons with chocolate ganache filling. I modified it slightly after reading tips from Ms. Humble and others.

And the result? Total perfection! I don't have a clue how I did it, but I've got pictures to prove it. The kids absolutely love them. We could have easily devoured all of them. However, I managed to box up some for coworkers, who also gave them rave reviews. These may even surpass sour cream cookies as my all-time favorite cookie. I'm now excited to try more.

I think I'll even add a kitchen scale to my Christmas wish list. Actually, it's probably too late for that; I'll just go buy one at an after-Christmas sale.


I'm nervous about one thing. Was this beginners luck?

Not bad for my first try. I'd be willing to put them up against Pierre's.
Perfectly smooth, domed shells. And feet!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rivarly Week Recipe #2—True Blue Velvet Cake

Even though I hate the expression, I needed to kill two birds with one stone. (If anyone knows a less violent phrase, do share.) First of all, we had a 1/2 birthday to celebrate at the office, and I wanted to make something to post on the blog in connection with the BYU vs. University of Utah Food Drive. The student alumni association from each school tries to collect the most food and money the two weeks leading up to the big rivalry football game.

I'm the advisor for the BYU Student Alumni, and these students have been doing an amazing job raising funds and collecting food for a wonderful cause. Everything collected by BYU goes to Community Action Services and Food Bank of Utah County. Here's an interesting fact. Did you know Community Action Services can leverage every dollar donated to equal about 15 to 20 lbs. of food? That's amazing! And, even in Utah there is a great need. Please take a moment to donate by clicking here.

Before I get to the recipe, here is a video the students made to promote the food drive. Enjoy!

If you haven't seen the commercial this parodies, click here.

Now, the recipe...

I decided to make a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting but with a twist. Instead of using the color of the opposition, I substituted blue food coloring. I didn't have enough food coloring on hand to make it real BYU blue, but it turned out pretty well. And, it was a lot of fun.

I just hope it brings good luck to the Cougars as they face the Utes, and inspires everyone to give this holiday season.
Happy 1/2 Birthday, Lisa, and GO Cougars!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rivalry Week Recipe #1—Chocolate and Cinnamon Spiced Pancakes

The big game is almost here—BYU vs. University of Utah.

For those of you not familiar with this rivalry, it's one of the biggest. Usually, I don't care that much for college football, but I do pay attention to this game. I am the advisor to the BYU Student Alumni, an amazing group of students. Each year the Student Alumni at BYU and the University of Utah have a competition the two weeks before the football game to see who can collect the most food and money for the local food banks. It's a great way to use the rivalry to generate donations, and in the end, it's the community that wins.

Before I get to the recipe, I thought I would share a video for the food drive made by the students. I am very impressed because it was made on a budget of basically zilch, or even less. I don't know if it's because I'm old, but I had never heard the phrase "cool beans." However, since watching this, I've begun to hear it quite a bit. For others not in the know, it basically means great, cool or awesome. So, enjoy! And, watch in the coming days when I will share a couple more videos that are cool beans. (That doesn't sound right. Ugh, I've turned into an old fogie.)

Now on to the recipe... I've decided this year to offer you, my adoring fans (all 23 of you), special rivalry week recipes leading up the game. I thought I would begin with a recipe I found on BYU Dining Services website for chocolate and cinnamon spiced pancakes. Not only did they sound yum, but November 18 is Pancake Day at BYU. Dining Services is serving all-you-can-eat pancakes all day all over campus for only $3. And best yet, proceeds go to the food drive. I love their slogan, "Flip a pancake; fill a pantry." If you are in the Provo area, I highly recommend you stop by campus for pancakes.

If you're not in the area, give these pancakes a try. And then, I ask you to please make a donation to the food drive by clicking here, or at least give to your local food bank. The food drive runs until November 27.


I tested these out on the two pickiest eaters I know, my six year-old Tomas
and his friend Jeffrey. They gave the pancakes the thumbs up. But, I 
confess, I'm the world's worst pancake flipper. Don't let the ugliness fool
you, these pancakes are mighty tasty.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Chocolate Orange Cheesecake

Cheesecake. I love it.

We had another birthday at work—a perfect excuse to make a cheesecake.

What took me the longest was to decide which from among our many, possibly hundreds, of cheesecake recipes to make.

I finally decided to go with one Katie and I have made countless times, Chocolate Orange Cheesecake. In my opinion, chocolate and orange go perfectly together. Those chocolate oranges (by Cadbury?) are a must have each year in our Christmas stockings. And, I recently found a recipe for candied orange wedges dipped in chocolate that I think might have to try very soon.

This cheesecake is fairly easy, and always a crowd pleaser. However, I did make one slight modification this time. After I took the cheesecake out of the oven, I forgot to loosen it from the sides of the pan as stated in the recipe. This caused the cheesecake to develop a giant crack. Usually, this doesn't bother me, but since it's for a birthday, I decided to cover it up with a ganache. Not only was this a simple way to cover up the flaw but it added pizazz. And, ganache always makes everything better, right?

I skipped breakfast (a no-no, I know), so it's truly a miracle I
made to work with the cheesecake intact. 

Birthday boy, Steven, with the remnants of
the snarf-fest. And since it was his birthday,
I let him have that last piece. I was sure
tempted to call that lunch.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Unguilty Pleasure Chocolate Cake

My mom is diabetic. About a year ago, she went to the doctor, and one of her tests came back very bad. Normal for the test is below six, and she was over eleven. The doctor was none too pleased and read my mom the riot act. Good thing he did because she decided she to get serious. She went totally sugar-free and has been going regularly to the gym.

Recently, my mom went back to the doctor. The doctor came into the examination room to give my mom the latest test results. He said, "You know that it's illegal to switch blood samples with someone else's, right?" My mom didn't really know what he was talking about. That thought had never crossed her mind. But then, she realized he was joking. It turns out her level was just above six. The doctor said she is now only pre-diabetic, and he was very proud of her. And, I am, too.

Hence, when my parents came to visit this week, I wasn't going to make anything to take her off track. I decided to look online for a sugar-free dessert. After searching a while, I came across a chocolate cake which uses agave nectar, a syrup made from a cactus. It's available at many grocery stores and at most health food stores. I modified the recipe some and added my own chocolate cream cheese frosting, also using agave.

The result was, in my humble opinion, pretty darn amazing. You would never believe it's sugar-free. The cake is dense and moist and guaranteed to satisfy any chocolate craving. Everyone in the family loved it with the exception of my six year-old, who didn't care for the frosting. Since it's made with cream cheese, it has a bit of a tang. Give him time, and his pallet will mature, right? Anyway, I found that the cake was even better the next day. If the cake is chilled the frosting becomes fudgier.

The cake does take a bit of work, but it's completely worth it, even if you're not into the whole sugar-free thing. So, make a healthy choice, and give this recipe a try. Although, I must warn you. You may be tempted to devour the entire cake yourself, which probably isn't so healthy.

Y. U. M. 
Even though the light wasn't so great, this photo is making
me salivate in a major way.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Vanilla-Roasted Peach Soup with Cardamom Cream

It must be a busy time of year for food bloggers. Most of the food blogs I follow don't seem to be posting much these days—myself included. My life at the moment is crazy-go-nuts, and things probably won't ease up until the end of the school semester. I have actually done some baking though. For two recent birthdays at the office, I made a tres leches cake and a cream cheese and raspberry coffee cake. However, the problem was that I didn't have time to take a decent photo of the desserts let alone sit down at a computer to write a blog entry about them. I'll get around to adding those two recipes to the blog eventually.

But now, I'm back.

Thumbing through my Cooking Light cookbook, I found this recipe for peach soup. I wanted to make it for several reasons. First, I love fruit soups. They remind me of Europe. I don't know why fruit soups aren't more popular here in the US. Second, the recipe called for a vanilla bean. I'm sorry to admit it, but I have never used a real vanilla bean although I've seen it done many times on TV. And finally, I had a bag of amazingly wonderful Utah peaches that needed to be used.

This soup was very easy to prepare, even the vanilla bean part. The aroma of the house while I was roasting the peaches was true aroma therapy. After I took the peaches out of the oven, I took a bite. Yum!! One of these peach halves served with a scoop of ice cream would make a fantastic dessert. Katie and I loved the soup, and I now want to invite some people over for dinner and serve it as the first course. Katie and I did find out, however, that we like a larger dollop of the cardamom cream than what the recipe calls for. Next time, I may double that part.

Before all the peaches are gone, give this soup a try. Share with friends; they'll think your so continental.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Peaches and Cream Cheese French Toast

It's peach season!

I stopped by a local fruit stand and bought a bag. Oh man, are they ever good. Utah peaches may just be the best in the world. Before eating devouring the entire bag, I decided to use some baking. I put together two recipes, a peaches and cream cheese French toast and a peach pandowdy. Unfortunately, I made the pandowdy at night when the light isn't good for photographing. It didn't make it until morning and the aftermath wasn't so pretty. So for right now, I'm only posting the French toast. I'll try and do another pandowdy later.

This French toast recipe was a favorite from our bed & breakfast days. We loved the recipe because the ratio of "Ooohs!" and "Aaaahs!" to the amount of actual work that went into it was very good. It's really easy. And then one day, Katie discovered that our cinnamon cream syrup makes the French toast really divine. We've tried the recipe with other kinds of fruit, too. Blueberries are especially nice.

Give this a try. It's great for breakfast, lunch or dinner—not necessarily in the same day. (But hey, I could be tempted.)

Or, a late night snack!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Torte di Pere E Cioccollato (Cake with Pear and Chocolate)

To celebrate Labor Day, we did jobs around the house. While I thought it was most appropriate to labor in honor of Labor Day, the kids did not think I was at all funny. However, they performed their tasks admirably with only minor complaining. Chloe helped Katie paint the house, and the boys helped me with yard work. To reward them for a job well-done, I decided to bake something.

Our last order from the food co-op contained an abundance of fruit. I was able to use some of the plums in a tart, and Katie finished off the nectarines. However, we still had a bunch of pears on the verge of going bad. So, I googled "pear" and "dessert" and searched through a bunch of recipes. The recipe that sounded most intriguing was Torte di Pere E Cioccollato (pear cake with chocolate chunks) from the restaurant Al Di La in Brooklyn. If I ever make it again to New York, this restaurant is on the to-do list. There are a lot of people who rave about it online. Several websites that have posted the recipe, but I think it was the Smitten Kitchen that somehow got hold of it in the first place.

There were three things that convinced me I needed to make this cake. First, the name alone sounds exotic. I want to start learning Italian. Second, it contains chocolate. Need I say more? And finally, browned butter is added to the batter. My favorite cookies in the world have a browned butter frosting. I love the flavor the browned butter adds.

So, I began my Labor Day labor of love.

The cake was fairly easy to make, and I only modified the recipe slightly. Instead of using bittersweet chocolate, I substituted semisweet. It's what I had on hand, and I'm not the biggest fan of bittersweet.

The cake turned out pretty darn amazing, and it was completely gone in no time. It reminds me of the types of cakes I've had in Europe. This recipe is a definite keeper I will want to make again for friends and family or a birthday at the office.

Therefore, if you're like me and can't just pop over to Al Di La whenever the mood strikes, give this recipe a try. I'm sure it's the next best thing.

To me, simple yet beautiful.

Ready for snarfing! Nom, nom, nom.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Rustic Plum Tart

It must be plum season because we got a whole bunch of them this month in our food co-op order*.

Only one problem... No one in the family is a big plum fan. The kids won't touch them. Katie doesn't care for them, and I'll eat them if there's nothing else around. However, I didn't want them to go to waste, so I decided to try baking with them.

During my time living in Germany, I often had Pflaumkuchen and quite liked it. I even tried making it once when Katie and I were newlyweds. I didn't think it was that bad. However, Katie didn't care for it, and I haven't made it again in the twenty years since.

I needed to try something new. I decided to wing it and combine a few things I'd seen on TV and make a rustic tart. I love the idea of "rustic" because no matter how your crust turns out, you can always say it's supposed to be that way.

The tart was incredibly easy to throw together, and I was very pleased with the result. I loved the plums, but I must say that the crust with the almond paste was my favorite part. Katie even liked the tart and said it was one of the best fruit tarts she's had. The kids, however, showed no interest or expressed their disgust. But, that was OK, it just meant more for Mom and Dad. For a couple evenings in a row after the kids had gone to bed,  Katie and I each enjoyed a warm slice of tart served with scoop of vanilla ice cream while watching British comedies on PBS.

This tart has made us fans of the plum. If you're not already a fan, give this tart a try, and see if it doesn't win you over.

I also love the deep purple and shades of orange the plums
turned as they were baked.

*We also received a bunch of nectarines I thought would be good in a recipe. But, alas... Katie likes nectarines, and I didn't get to them quick enough.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Apricot Pineapple Jam with Lion House Rolls

Apricot season has ended.

I'm glad we had several friends willing to share their harvest. And now, I would like to share 
with you our family's absolute favorite jam recipe, apricot pineapple. It used to be printed with the MCP pectin instructions, but for some reason, it's not there anymore. It would be a true shame if this recipe were lost, so feel free to make this jam and share the recipe with your friends and family.

We made quite a few batches this year. I pitted and pureed, and Katie did the rest. We ended up with about 30 jars of jam. One would think that many jars would last us until next summer. However, an opened jar doesn't last very long in our house, especially with our growing kids. I think I need to initiate a rationing program.

Or, better yet—a reward program.
"Yes, you may have some toast with apricot pineapple jam...as soon as you clean your room."

After we finished making the jam, I was in the mood to bake something to go with it. I immediately thought of my favorite rolls from the historical Lion House Pantry in downtown Salt Lake City. These rolls are incredible. They are light, airy, and buttery. And, what I love most is the shape. They sort of remind me of those of those round bales of hay. I'd post a photo of them, but I couldn't find a good one online, not even on the Lion House Pantry website. But, just try to imagine a roll looking like this.

This past year, the Lion House started selling a box mix of their rolls. Even though homemade is always better than a mix, I considered buying a box. But then it occurred to me, the recipe might be online. It was! I also found this video where a Lion House pastry chef, demonstrates the rolling technique to achieve the signature shape.

The rolls I made tasted just like what you would buy at the restaurant. However, I need a little more practice to achieve the signature shape. As rolls go, mine look perfectly fine, but they did have these little ends sticking out. I also ended up covered in the flour and butter. Once we spread on the apricot pineapple jam, we couldn't control ourselves, and the rolls were scarfed up in no time. I think I might volunteer to make the rolls at the annual family gathering at Thanksgiving.

Yep, I don't think it will be too long before we run out of jam.

Seriously, these rolls are heaven. Just looking at the picture
makes me want to make more.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cherry and White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Through our local food co-op, we purchased a preselected variety of products from the Nutty Guys. I'm a big fan of the Nutty Guys, but one of the items included was a very large bag of dried cherries. It's not that I dislike cherries, but they've never been my favorite dried fruit. So, the bag sat for a couple months on the shelf until our health conscious friends from Canada came to stay. It was a good opportunity to unload on them all the healthy stuff that just sits around our place. With our Canadian house guests, we mainly ate the cherries straight out of the bag and on salads.

However, when the Canucks returned to the North Pole, we still had a half a bag of cherries left. Now that the bag was opened, we needed to use them up. I first tried them in a scone recipe we like. I substituted the cherries for the dried cranberries. These turned out exceptionally well, and I even like them better with the cherries. I started to brainstorm other ways to use the cherries in baking.

I decided to take a really good oatmeal cookie recipe and throw in some cherries and white chocolate chips. The result? Simply amazing. Katie expressed a little displeasure, however, because she knew she wouldn't be able to resist them. To help her out, I brought a bunch of them into work where they were a big hit (and not because I work with a bunch of starving college students).

These oatmeal cookies are so good and so easy to make. The dried cherries and white chocolate really add pizazz. Give 'em a try. And also, don't forget to check out the Nutty Guys. They've got lots of other great products, and they ship all over the US.

After photographing, I practically ate this
stack myself—the breakfast of champions.

Oatmeal and dried cherries? Yes, I'm sure they're healthy!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Apricot Raspberry Tart

It's apricot season in Utah!

Apricots are part of the culture in these parts. We even have a children's song about apricot trees. It seems like every yard except ours has an apricot tree. This, of course, is perfectly fine by me because neighbors are usually happy to share, and I don't have to clean up any rotted fruit off the ground.

A friend posted on Facebook they had a tree full of ripe apricots free for picking. So, I went over and picked enough to make apricot pineapple jam* and this recipe for apricot raspberry tart. I wanted to make this tart for three reasons:
  1. I'm not sure I have ever used the tart pan that's been in our cupboard for I don't know how long. It's finally time.
  2. I also picked up some great looking raspberries at the farmer's market.
  3. This tart reminds me of the apricot desserts I sampled last year in Austria. An area just outside Vienna is famous for its apricots. One word—amazing.
As long as you have a food processor, this recipe is easy. If you don't have one, use canned almond filling instead.

And as an added bonus, here is some music to motivate you to try this tart. The first song is the song mentioned above, "Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree," followed by two variations. Enjoy and happy baking! (If the widget doesn't appear, I apologize. Grooveshark has been having problems lately.)

*This is one of our family's favorites, and I'll post the recipe soon.

This dessert makes summer sweet!

Cool Van Gogh plate, don't you agree?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Teddy Bars (Happy Birthday to Me)

Twenty years ago, Katie and I were both in college and working in the university's library. During our breaks, we would often dash next door to the campus bookstore for a quick treat. This is when we made an amazing, fantastic discovery. There they were right in the middle of the ice cream freezer—the Teddy Bars, frozen slices of cheesecake on popsicle sticks dipped in chocolate.

Oh... My... Goodness.  Now, that's my kind of popsicle—perfect for a hot summer day!

This was back in the days when I could eat practically anything and not gain a pound, so I enjoyed, relished, savored, and devoured many a Teddy Bar.

After that summer, they quit selling Teddy Bars in the bookstore, and I haven't seen them anywhere since.* Over the years, I've often thought longingly of my favorite college days treat. 

Well, if you've read much of this blog, you know that I quite often bring treats for birthdays at work. Yesterday was a birthday I wasn't going to miss. Mine.

Now, I can hear many of you thinking, "What! Make your own birthday cake?" And I say, "You betcha." Baking for me is fun, and this way I assure I get what I want.

I wanted to bring something that would completely astound the crowd so that they would fall over backward in their chairs. What could induce such a reaction? The Teddy Bars! But, could I recreate them? Why not!

I made what I consider to be the ultimate New York style cheese cake leaving off the topping. And, Cheesecake Karma must have been with me because the cheesecake turned out absolutely beautiful without a single crack.** And, assembly wasn't too difficult.

The reaction at work? Well, no one fell out of their chairs because they were all standing. However, it was total shock and ooh aah.

 Perfect. Just say no to crack.

I would venture to say these are even better than the original.

*After doing a little Internet research, I found a company in Texas, Lawler Foods, makes the Teddy Bar. I'll have to ask my sister in Texas if she's ever heard of them. But, I think I will still put a note in the comment box at the bookstore asking to please bring them back.

**Helpful hints for making a crack-free cheesecake:
  1. Have ingredients at room temperature.
  2. Do not over beat the batter. Mix well, but slow and steady does the trick.
  3. Don't over-bake your cheesecake. The cake should be firm with the middle slightly wobbly.
  4. Grease your springform pan well. The cheesecake will shrink as it cools.
  5. If your cheesecake does develop a crack. Cover it with a topping, or tell your guests it's a true sign the cheesecake is homemade with love.

P.S. Speaking (or writing) of cracks, here is a video that totally cracked me up. It was produced by the BYU Library where Katie and I worked. It's based on the popular Old Spice commercial. Makes me proud to be an alumnus. Go Cougars!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Chocolate Pudding Ice Cream

I've heard it said many times that Utah consumes more ice cream per capita than any other state. I have been unable to find who did the research, but I like to believe it's true. And, I am proudly doing my part to make sure Utah stays number one.

Recently, my mom passed on to me an old ice cream recipe book I remember from my childhood. I think our family only ever made a couple of the recipes. However, I have now read the book cover to cover and want to have a little ice cream fun. I plan on trying a bunch of the recipes and experimenting this summer.

My mom had left a post-it note on a page with this recipe for Chocolate Pudding Ice Cream—my guess is because she liked it or had plans to try it. I figure it's a good place to start.

The ice cream turned out rich, creamy, and with a strong chocolate flavor. It got great reviews from my two boys who want me to make it again very soon (like now). The taste and texture reminded me of one of my all time favorite treats, a Longboard Popsicle*. I think this chocolate pudding ice cream would make great gourmet popsicles. I think I'll have to start investigating popsicle making methods, molds, and flavors. Any suggestions?

 If Utah's going to be number one at something, ice cream 
consumption isn't bad, especially with a flavor like this.

*If you haven't tried a Longboard, I highly recommend you do. In my area of the country, they can be purchased at Maceys and Costco.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Oatmeal Butterscotch Muffins

When it comes to Independence Day celebrations, Provo really goes all out. It's been a few years since we've been to the parade, but when the high temperature was only supposed to be in the mid-eighties, we decided to go. We joined up with some friends for a potluck breakfast while waiting for the parade to begin.

We brought a favorite from our innkeeper days. If you read the chewy ginger cookies post, you know our three criteria for a great bed and breakfast recipe. For us, this muffin recipe was a winner.

  1. The recipe makes a lot—3 dozen, in fact. Plus, they freeze well.
  2. They're easy to make. In a B&B kitchen, you're often by yourself and multitasking. Easy recipes are essential.
  3. They taste great. Our guests loved these hearty muffins served warm. They're moist, and the melted butterscotch chips are a tasty surprise. And, with all that oatmeal, they must be healthy. Right?

Speaking of the bed and breakfast, one of the things Katie and I take pride in is that once we had a guest stay with us for a month. We served him a different gourmet breakfast each day never repeating a single recipe. Now that was no easy task.

So that means I've got quite a few breakfast recipes to share. Stay tuned, and I'll get busy. In the meantime, enjoy these muffins.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ginger Peach Ice Cream Sandwiches

Take one scoop of this.

Smash it between two of these cookies.

And what have you got?

Darn near the most incredible ice cream sandwiches* ever, and I ain't lyin'.

*After assembly, wrap in plastic wrap and store in the freezer. If you can be patient, they're even better a day or two later.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

German Bee Sting Cake (Bienenstich)


Germany lost to Spain in the semifinals of the World Cup.

I refused to listen to Paul the Octopus.

I'm bummed.

I made a cake to celebrate after what I was sure to be a German win. The cake is called Bienenstich, which translates as bee sting cake. It was one of my absolute favorites to buy in the German pastry shops when I lived there. The cake is sort of a sweet bread with a vanilla custard filling topped with honeyed almonds. This recipe tastes just like what I remember.


There was no celebrating, and I'm here by myself eating an enormous piece.

It helps.

Just like I told the Argentine fans, "There's always next time." But, four years is so far away.

I think I'll have seconds.

 In honor of the German side...

I probably shouldn't admit this, but I like to pick off the 
candied almonds first, lick out the custard center, and then
eat the cake.

Argentine Empanadas

On July 3, we were a house divided. Germany was playing against Argentina in the World Cup.

The World Cup may not be that big of a deal in the rest of the US, but it most certainly is in our home. Katie, Chloe and Tomas wanted Argentina to win while Liam and I were cheering for Germany.

To mark the occasion, Katie made Argentine empanadas. These amazing filled pastries are so addicting, I had to share the recipe. I'm sure I downed a half dozen easily. Katie got the recipe from her parents, who lived in Argentina. Katie has then continued to fine tune and perfect it. Katie's empanadas would do Diego Maradona and the Argentine soccer team proud.

Too bad it didn't help them win. In fact, Germany trounced all over Argentina, 4-0.

Oh well. There's always next time, right? If you're bummed about Argentina, try one of these empanadas. Not a bad consolation, and they'll cheer you up in a jiffy.

By the way, you may be wondering if I did anything special for the game. Well, to bring the German team good luck, I ate a German chocolate bar. I'm always more than happy to do my part. However, stay tuned. I think I will make some sort of German culinary creation for when Germany plays Spain in the semis.

Lookin' mighty "caliente".

Look at Katie's fine crimping work. You can use a fork if 
you'd like.

I wonder how "nom, nom, nom" translates into Spanish.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Peach Ice Cream

It's summertime, and several food blogs I follow have been posting ice cream recipes. I thought I'd get my ice cream maker out and throw our family's favorite recipe into the ring—peach ice cream.

To tell the truth, I'm very surprised that this is our favorite because no chocolate is involved—quite a departure for us. This ice cream is great with canned peaches, but tastes oh so fine with fresh.

I have a 1 ½ quart Cuisinart ice cream maker. For the price, it's a fantastic little ice cream maker, and makes the process very easy. If you have this type of ice cream maker where you freeze the bowl, make sure the bowl is frozen solid. I had to lower my freezer's temperature a bit. It also helps to chill the ice cream mixture before adding it into the machine.

This recipe is not just limited to peaches. Basically, any pureed fruit can be used.

Ice Cream! Ice Cream! We all scream for peach ice cream!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Chewy Ginger Cookies

Katie discovered this recipe back in our Bed & Breakfast days. Each afternoon, we set out cookies and other treats for afternoon tea. These cookies were always a favorite among our guests, and we loved the recipe because it fit the following criteria:
  1. The recipe makes a lot. We made a ton of cookies at the B&B. Now when we make these cookies, we have enough to share with friends and neighbors.
  2. They're so easy to make. My six year-old, Tomas, helps and especially loves the rolling in sugar part.
  3. They taste great. When Tomas has all of his neighborhood friends over begging for them, you know you have a winner.
And, one other thing I like is that they are chewy. I'm not a big fan of the traditional hard ginger snap.

Because of all the spices, fall is my favorite time of the year to eat these cookies. However, they really are a great year-round. Check back here in a day or two, and I will show you something you can do with these ginger cookies to turn them into a summer treat that is beyond amazing—truly mind blowing.

"Tomas, go get your friends. We've got cookies!"
Soft and chewy. I can never have just one. In fact, I'd be 
embarrassed to admit how many I've had in a single sitting. 
So, how about we don't go there.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Lemony Lemon Cake

Yes, I'm on a lemon kick. And, this cake is le-mon-y through and through!

I saw this cake a while back as I was flipping through TV channels. Martha Stewart and a guest were making it. Usually, I can only take Martha in extremely small doses, but her guest caught my attention when he mentioned lemon curd. At that point, I had never tried lemon curd and was curious, so I decided to watch the rest of the segment. The cake looked pretty amazing, and I mentally filed it away thinking I would make it someday.

Months later, I finally tried lemon curd, which I have renamed lemon spread. I love the stuff, and I thought it was now time to try this cake out. And, I owed a culinary creation to one of the student employees at work for winning a contest I was in charge of. I offered a fabulous homemade dessert as the grand prize.

As far as cakes go, this one did require some work, but it wasn't too difficult. However, judging by the oohs and aahs and overwhelmingly outstanding reviews, it was well worth the effort.

Looking at this photo, I think I finally need to invest in
a cake stand.

I was surprised how good those candied lemon slices were, too.

This is my boss enjoying every last crumb.
I think I'll make another cake around raise

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lemon Blueberry Trifle


What an unpleasant sounding word. Really, I do not care for it. Maybe it's because it rhymes with turdCurd ranks right up there with the words luxurious and snacks.** I don't know why, but I don't like those words either.

Am I weird? Yeah, probably.

Why do I reveal this about myself? Well, I have wanted to make lemon curd for a long time now. I've read about it in books, watched people use it on TV, and seen in mentioned on multiple food blogs.

It really sounds incredibly yummy.

Costco had amazing blueberries for sale. I couldn't resist and bought a container. And since Costco sells everything in bulk, I needed to start using them up soon before they went bad.

What to do? Hmmm... Lemon goes well with blueberries, right?

That's it! This is my opportunity to try making lemon curd, and I'll find a way to combine it with blueberries.

But, I'm changing the name. From now on, lemon curd will be known as lemon butter (like peanut butter, apple butter, or honey butter).

I found this recipe online for Lemon Blueberry Trifle. With a couple of minor modifications, I made it for the summer party at work. It turned out to be a show-stopping creation earning rave reviews all around.

Since I made this dessert from scratch, I admit it took a while. However, you could easily use frozen pound cake and store bought lemon curd spread. Then, you'd have this spectacular dessert ready in about 30 minutes. Really. Give it a try, and wow the crowds.

*Some people have been known to affectionately call me Curd as a nickname. Yeah, I still love 'em anyway.
**A friend of mine wrote a funny blog post about this. Check it out here.

Ta-dah! And no, this is not a luxurious snack.

The one thing about trifles, no one ever wants to be the 
first to dig in. But once someone does...watch out!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sunshine Boont (or Bundt)

I've been away for a while. We went camping for a week on the beach in California, and afterward, it's taken me a week to get caught up in the real world. I made this cake before leaving but am just now getting around to posting it.

Late one night, I checked Facebook and saw that my colleague, Julie, was having a birthday the following day. I had to bake something because Julie is the one at work who always seems to remember everyone else's birthday. She probably even knows my kid's birthdays, and I wouldn't be surprised if she knew my dog's. Julie is also the kind of colleague who is there to lend a hand with everyone's projects. And, she's certainly helped me out on a number of stressful occasions at work.

Since it was late, whatever I was going to make needed to be quick and easy. After skimming through recipes, I found a citrus Bundt cake that sounded really good. It uses a cake mix, which is generally a major sin in our home, but when you're short on time, ya gotta do whatcha gotta do. I modified the recipe some according to the ingredients on hand, but it turned out great—very moist and a nice change from all the chocolate desserts I tend to make.

Everyone at work loved it, too. And, the scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding was quoted numerous times throughout the day.

"There's a hole in this cake."–Maria Portokalos.

Happy birthday, Julie! 

Boont? Bundt? Let's snarf!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

S’More Cookies with Tomas

Today, I was the sous chef, and Tomas, my six year-old, was boss. Give him a stool, and he loves helping out in the kitchen. We decided to make S'More cookies because we actually had all the ingredients in the house. And for the most part, it's a kid friendly recipe.

Tomas can now read the recipe mostly by himself and only needs help with some of the cooking terminology. We also had fun learning some math with the measuring cups. It looks like Tomas has inherited a math gene that didn't come from me.

While making the cookies, I decided to conduct an interview with the little head chef. My comments are in brackets.

So Tomas, when did you first begin cooking?
When I was 5 1/2, I think. I don't remember.

What kinds of things do you like to make?
I like to make eggs with my mom and stuff with chocolate with my dad.

What is your favorite part of cooking?
I like to crack the eggs. But, I also like to lick the beaters and bowl.

What is your favorite kitchen utensil?
I like the thing that cuts the tops off of [hard boiled] eggs. [Are you sensing a theme here?]

What advice do you have for the beginning baker?
Don't put the mixer on 10 with the flour. [He learned this from Dad's mistake.]

Why do you like this recipe?
I like marshmallow creme, and I love chocolate.

Why should people try this recipe?
Because they're so good I could eat the whole pan. And, I made them. If you eat them fast [meaning warm], the chocolate and marshmallow are still gooey.

Well, there you have it. If Tomas says they're good, they're good. So, try these out. And, I highly recommend involving a kid. It's much more fun.

Give this guy his own cooking show!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Chocolate Turtle Cookies

Over the past few years, our family has had the tradition of the Blessing Basket. There are times that we are better about remembering to do it than others, but every night before bed, we each write down on slips of paper something we are grateful for that day and then place the papers in a basket. I just spent a good half hour reading through a bunch of them, and reminiscing. Here are a few.
  • I'm  am glad our family can play card games together.
  • I'm glad we have a really beautiful final memory of Grandma Lu.
  • I am thankful for my friends, the stars, and for Halloween.
  • I'm thankful for kids who make me laugh.
  • I'm thankful I could take a long nap today.
  • I'm grateful to live in a land where I can vote and not be afraid to voice my opinion.
  • I'm thankful I didn't puke today.
  • I'm thankful I can read and enjoy great books, and I'm thankful for the people who wrote them.
  • I'm thankful for my cat, Chester, and my friends, Sebi and Jeffrey.
  • I'm thankful for Jesus and his example for me.
This week, we changed the Blessing Basket to a Service Basket. I got the idea from a talk by President Monson titled "What Have I Done for Someone Today?". For the next little while, each family member will write down every night something he/she has done for someone else.

Here is where this recipe for chocolate turtle cookies comes in. I thought I'd make some cookies to welcome a new family to the neighborhood for my act of service. And of course, I'd make enough for my family to enjoy as well.

I haven't had these cookies for a long time. My mom made them when I was young, and I loved them. They're really easy to make, and kids love to help out because it's like making little chocolate waffles.

So, if you want to do a good deed and put a smile on someone's face, make a batch of these.

Here they are before the frosting. Another great idea would
be to serve them like this with ice cream and hot fudge sauce.
The finished turtles. What a fun cookie!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Blackberry Apple Pie

Wow, I can't believe this blog is already six months old.

My original goal was to post one recipe each week. Since this is post number 32, I'm actually a little ahead of schedule. I'm slowly learning the ins and outs of food blogging, and I finally moved up in the world and got a decent camera. As I browse around through other food blogs, I see I have much to learn about baking, writing, and taking good photos. But, I'm pleased with my progress so far.

For most of this past half year, I could count on one hand the people who looked at this blog. Then, it suddenly happened. Boom! Almost overnight, I had ten followers. And, I don't even know half of them. I'm still slightly bewildered that anyone would take an interest. However, I'm also very pleased, and I thank all ten of you. If I'm not living up to your expectations, let me know, and I'll get it in gear.

Now all this leads up to why I'm posting a pie recipe. One of my followers, Ms. Humble, has one of my favorite food blogs. She is seriously the queen of food blogging. She's entertaining, posts great recipes, and takes beautiful photos. Plus, it has happened more than once that I have been sitting in front of the computer with my jaw dropped in amazement at her absolute precision in cutting cakes, pies, and brownies. Seriously, it's like she's performing delicate surgery on the food. I must say I was quite honored to one day see her photo in the followers box.

Well, Ms. Humble is holding a pie contest, and I thought I'd give it a shot. I've never entered a baking contest, and I don't really have the best track record of winning anything. But hey, you never know.

But, what to make? I searched through all my cookbooks looking for inspiration and not finding anything that screamed, "Bake me!" It wasn't until I was walking through Costco, the only store in my area of the country where you can purchase fruits and vegetables that rival those found in the produce markets of Europe, that I spotted some of the most beautiful blackberries. So big. So plump. Yum. I knew I had to make a pie with blackberries.

I think I'll eat blackberries till I'm purple.

One of my favorite autumn pies is a cranberry apple. (Look for that post around Thanksgiving.) This is a version of that pie. Give it a try yourself, or wish me luck. But really, thanks for reading. I appreciate it.

Right out of the oven. If only you could smell this through 
the computer.

One final note: From Ms. Humble's blog, I learned the word "nom". She uses it quite often, and I finally googled it. Urbandictionary.com defines the word as "the sound made when someone is eating or chewing something and really enjoying it". Totally fitting for her blog and for this recipe.

You should let the pie cool completely if you want your piece of 
pie to hold its triangular shape. If you just can't wait, realize 
it will be more like cobbler. As you can see, we couldn't wait.
Nom, nom, nom, nom!