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Forgotten Sweets

27 Feb

I’m sitting at home, sick, well sick-ish. Sick enough that my throat is not allowing me to swallow and I sound like a freak, so definitely too sick to go talk on the radio for two hours today. But not sick enough to sleep all day or just be content watching movies in bed. Also I have no TV in my room.

Getting back on track here. I am well enough to realize that I never did my Christmas post and I’m very behind in dessert writing. Does it matter? No, but I like sharing my desserts, especially during lent when I can’t eat any. So this will be a slew of forgotten sweets. Whoops.

Let’s start with what I referred to as “Fake Christmas.” We celebrated Christmas with my immediate family – all 13 of us – on Michael’s birthday this year because when Christmas is on a Tuesday, things get messy. We were all busy on different days and couldn’t find the right time to exchange gifts, so we had fake Christmas and Michael’s birthday together on the 15th. It worked fine, but hopefully in the future, when Christmas is not on a dumb Tuesday, we will get it together.

I was extremely excited to make this three layer red velvet cake covered in chocolate! I saw it on Pinterest, which is where most of my dessert inspiration comes from these days. It was pretty easy and my nephews were mesmerized by the deep red color, and of course the puddle of chocolate ganache that covered everything. You should absolutely put this on your 2013 holiday baking list.

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Since we were also celebrating my brother’s birthday, I threw together some minty brownies, his favorite flavor combination. I’m not 100% sure but I believe these are my famous Bailey’s brownies with added dark chocolate and mint chips.

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And, to top off the day, I made some Christmas punch. I honestly don’t remember the entire recipe. I think it was raspberry sorbet, orange juice and sprite zero. I left it kid friendly, with the choice to add in some white wine for the rest of us. Madeline and Michael loved it, Michael forgot to put the wine in.

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On to real Christmas! Sugar cookies are a staple for our family. Though my mom debates me on this, I always say that these cookies are the only holiday cookies I remember from my childhood. Whether I’m right or wrong, they are the most important cookie of the season, and the only cookie I can guarantee my mom will help me with, on our scheduled Sugar Cookie Day, of course. At this point, we are pros. We have a huge assortment of cookie cutters and know which ones make the best cookies, though we do attempt to make snowflakes each year despite the high percentage possibility that they will break.

 

 

 

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I slacked off a little this year. I think I only made about 12 different cookies, when I prefer making 18. I know that sounds crazy, but once I cover the handful of cookies that I feel like I have to make each year, I want to experiment with new ones. This December was a little crazy and flew by super fast, so 12 was all I could bake. We all survived.

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I referred to these as pop tart cookies, though the recipe called them french toast cookies. These guys actually really frustrated me because I was trying to do too many things at once and forgot to add cinnamon to the batter, and then we accidentally thought they were sugar cookie dough rolls for a while, but in the end they turned out cute and different, which is always my goal. They were also pretty delicious – and my dad attempted to help me frost them. They were a little big, so I think people were less likely to grab them from the dessert buffet, but I was happy to have them as leftovers. Now I want a pop tart.

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I apologize that I can’t figure out how to flip this mouth-watering coffee cake picture. Good thing you are probably reading this from a lap top or a phone, you can rotate your device. I made this for my mom’s Christmas brunch with her friends, it was also super yummy, pecan cinnamon coffee cake. I do recall this recipe being very strange. I think I ended up mixing more of the dry ingredients in with the wet ones, so be careful with these instructions.

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My FAVORITE christmas dessert is a cranberry bliss bar. These are amazing and were developed to copy a Starbucks dessert. A delicious combination of dried cranberries, white chocolate and cream cheese. I find it so weird that I love these because I’m not a white chocolate fan and I do not like cream cheese. Weird, right? But these are a huge exception to those rules. I love them, so will you, that is all.

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More Bailey’s Brownies. What can I say? They’re really good and everyone needs extra Bailey’s at Christmas.

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Here begins a selection of drop cookies. Traditional Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Raisin, Mint Oreo Chocolate Cookies, (amazing even though I totally messed up the recipe) Sea Salt Caramel Pretzel Bark, and some sort of layer bar that I think I made from a few bags of leftover stuff. They were also really delicious and while I’m typing this I will try to find the recipes.

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I try to Pin all of the things I make so that I can find them later, success for this one. The bark was not supposed to be giant chunks. This is again what happens to me when I accidentally try to do nine million things at once. But you know what? This was the best tasting thing ever in life, so it’s ok. More odd shaped scraps for me and my dad.

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I adapted this recipe from the leftover things I had on hand: weird tasting chocolate marshmallows, super old coconut and chopped pecans. It was actually really really good. Kind of mushier than I think the crust was supposed to be, but another accidental taste of awesome.

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Dark Chocolate Mint Oreo Cookies. Growing up I never understood why Michael and my friend Stevie liked mint chocolate things so much. I hated them for about 16 years. Finally, I’ve come to my senses and realized the intense satisfaction that comes from mixing them together. Plus this recipe has crushed Oreos in it.

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Oatmeal cinnamon chip (an ingredient you must buy) raisin drop cookies can from the recipe on the cinnamon chip bag. Sometimes that is just the way to go.

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I used the “Mrs. Field’s” Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe I found for Septemberfest for these guys. I think they were better as a giant bar, but still pretty good.

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I made these because I really like Pretzel M&Ms. I didn’t like them as much as my drop cookie recipe, but you live, you eat and you learn.

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Fudge. This is actually another recipe my mom made every year for christmas and I make at least 5… ok 10 times a year. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably had it and you love it too.

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Is it a holiday without Oatberries? These were leftover from my unsuccessful attempt to be on the new CBS baking show. That was frustrating because the “taster” ate about 1/16 of one of these. At least I went to round two, that is my goal with most things in life.

 

 

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I was planning on adding my February desserts to this list but I’m too hungry now, plus it’s lent and I don’t know if I have the willpower to look at brownies any more. I still have 32 days left!

Hopefully you did not give up dessert for lent and since there is more snow on the ground than I’ve seen in two years, you can pretend it’s Christmas. Play some deck the halls and make one of these recipes – let me know how it goes!

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Sweet’N Low Seasonal Sips

30 Dec

As part of the DailyBuzz Food Tastemaker program, I recently received a wonderful package from Sweet’N Low, including a super cute cocktail shaker!

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I was challenged to create a low-sugar drink with my Sweet’N Low packets and since I’ve recently joined the peppermint mocha loving club, I decided to tackle my own version of the coffeehouse favorite.

The first ingredient I used was a simple cup of coffee. I used an instant coffee packet, but you can easily use a cup from your carafe or from a single serve machine.

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Pour your coffee in a fancy mug and then add a tablespoon of cocoa powder, for the mocha! Of course, the cocoa is unsweetened and that’s where the Sweet’N Low comes in. I used one packet for my single drink, but this part is really to taste, sweeten your drink as much as you like.

Next 1/2 a teaspoon of peppermint extract. Here’s where you can spike your drink with a splash of peppermint schnapps if you want. That’s one of the things I love about making individual drinks, you can fit each drinker with their favorite flavors.

Finally a swirl of whipped cream topped with a few chocolate chips and a peppermint candy, a low-calorie way to enjoy a sinful drink!

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Thanks to Sweet’N Low now I can enjoy peppermint mocha even after I start my diet tomorrow – cheers!

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Thanksgiving Treats

28 Nov

Oh, Thanksgiving. My favorite, most delicious holiday, and the day I always make a dessert trifle.

All of you FRIENDS fans must remember the Thanksgiving episode where Rachel makes the crazy jam, custard and beef trifle. Since that is my favorite show of all time, and one of my favorite episodes, for that past six or so years I’ve been making a trifle to celebrate the holiday. No beef though, just sweetness.

I always make my trifle a little different, and this year I went with a simple combination of Bailey’s brownies, fresh whipped cream, melted chocolate and crushed mini Oreos.

Bailey’s in brownies is amazing, I’ve already made some for my next dessert event, so easy too! I just subbed most of the water in the recipe for the liquor. They smell and taste decadent.

My whipped cream recipe is simple as well. Just whip up some heavy cream with a spoonful of powdered sugar and a splash of vanilla. Be sure to chill the bowl and the whisk before beginning.

I really enjoyed the combination of thick brownies and lots and LOTS of whipped cream.

 

We also got together the Saturday after Thanksgiving at my house where I attempted to make French Silk pie. I figured it’s time for me to start working on some desserts I’m not too familiar with for my audition next weekend!

The crust was so easy and delicious. I used Carla Hall’s Perfect Pie Crust from The Chew. It was flawless. The flaws came later, when I attempted to make a filling from an App on my phone. Major fail, it was grainy and gross. Since I didn’t want to spend the entire night in the kitchen, I made a quick decision to melt an entire bag of milk chocolate chips and spread that in my crust, then I made some more whipped cream and topped it with that. Honestly I thought it was pretty delicious. It was nothing like french silk pie, but it was pretty yummy and I’d like some right now!

I also made mini pie crust cups for ice cream – loved these! Plus, they were great to send home with my nieces and nephews to enjoy whenever they wanted a crunchy cup.

Saturday morning I spent the day walking around Chicago tasting chocolate with my sister-in-law to be, Erin, so I have to say I had a really sugary few days – I hope you all had a sweet Thanksgiving weekend too!

Oh – and I made these mac & cheese cups as an appetizer!

And of course, honey butter!

Some Sweet Advice on Celebrations & Competitions

18 Nov

Three things inspired this post today.

First, Thanksgiving is coming! This year we are going to my aunt & uncle’s house, so I don’t need to worry about assisting my mom with mashed potatoes or mac & cheese. Instead I’m focusing all of my efforts on the sweet side of things, and of course, honey butter.

Second, my former high school Journalism teacher, Ms. Syed, started following me on Twitter and invited me to come to her 1st period class’s bake-off! I was more than honored to be invited. Unfortunately, the BIG Radio Shopping Show is too far away for me to make it from Conant to Aurora by 10am. After I regretfully declined, she asked me to give her bakers some advice.

Finally, I’m gearing up to audition for the CBS Baking Show in three weeks and have been thinking about practicing some sweets that I don’t make too often.

The two things on my plate plus Ms. Syed’s first hour freshmen reading students’ bake-off made me think of some important baking advice that I want to share with you guys. These are especially important around the holidays.

Practice what you’re going to make before the big holiday or competition. By this I don’t mean you need to make the exact same item beforehand, but what you can do is practice the technique. If you’re planning to make a pie, make a tart with the same dough a few weeks in advance. Maybe you’re going to have secret ingredients in the competition to make a drop cookie. Master the chocolate chipper before you go to the bake-off.

Know what you’re not good at. Personally, I’m not good at cheesecakes. I think I’ve made one successful cheesecake in my life and so if I were going to be providing dessert at a big event or proving I’m a good little baker, I wouldn’t start with this one. However, I should probably work on it for my audition.

Always have parchment paper on hand. Whether you’re putting together cookies, cakes, brownies or even covering pretzels in chocolate, you will always be more successful with parchment paper. Pause and actually cut the paper to the size you need. Take it from the girl who does everything too quickly, this is a step when you should breathe and slow down.

Make something you want to eat! The most fun and rewarding part of baking is eating the results, right? Even though baking doesn’t always give the same opportunities to taste test like cooking does, it’s good to have a reference point so that you know what it’s supposed to smell and look like. Then when you do taste it, you’ll know that you did a good job.

Have fun. Dessert is an extra. It isn’t required in life. It’s something you get to pick, plan and polish off. It makes people happy and hyper, that’s why it pairs so well with coffee. Everyone loves the person that brings desserts!

Good luck CHS bakers!

Essential Thanksgiving Element: Honey Butter

9 Nov

Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday. Aside from the fact that my family goes on the same nature center walk every year, which I love, it’s also a holiday surrounded by food and drink. Sure, most holidays involve a delicious meal, but there’s always some other element to the day that makes you scurry from the table onto the next activity. Of course I love opening presents, Easter egg hunting, Trick or Treating and all the other fun holiday things, but let’s get serious here, I love food the most. And, you know, champagne & wine that comes with it.

There’s one element that I make sure to bring to the Thanksgiving table every year, honey butter. It’s quick and easy, but it adds a huge punch of deliciousness to dinner, and leftovers!

Here’s what you do:

Soften a stick (or two) of butter when you wake up Thanksgiving morning. Easy, right? Take care of all of the other things you need to do that day, whether you’re in charge of the turkey, the mashed potatoes, or like me, desserts, just let that butter hang out. Unless you live in the tropics, don’t worry about the butter getting too soft. Just be sure to keep it away from the oven.

You might forget you have that butter waiting for you, but you’ll remember as soon as you take the rolls/bread/cornbread out of the oven and you’re about 10 minutes from eating. Don’t panic, this is a two-minute recipe.

Put you stick(s) of butter in a mixing bowl, even though it’s not a lot of ingredients, I usually use a good size bowl because it’s just weird to use a hand mixer with a little bowl. Then grab your honey from the cabinet. Here’s the fun part – squeeze as much honey as you can into the bowl. I’ve never made the butter too sweet, so as long as you’re not using the whole jar, you should be fine. There really isn’t a measurement for this one, just to taste, which you are totally allowed to do on Thanksgiving! Turn on your beaters and whipped the honey and butter mixture until it looks super smooth. Then, taste test that butter until you get a perfect flavor.

You’re done! Of course since it’s Thanksgiving, you’ll want to put the butter in a fancy little bowl or something to serve, but on any other occasion, you can use a Tupperware. It’s amazing, especially with cornbread or sweet Hawaiian bread.

Once you master this, try adding vanilla extract for an extra flavor burst! Or cinnamon, or even something crazy like cayenne!

Happy Almost Thanksgiving!

Pinterest at its best

5 Jul

I love Pinterest. 

I used to be really into Twitter, but then it made me anxious. Yep, I’m admitting it, Twitter makes me anxious because it’s so constant and makes you feel like you need to catch up. Pinterest on the other hand, is a leisurely place to pretend to have a bunch of money to buy awesome shoes, a bunch of time to be crafty, a bunch of energy to be fit and, most importantly, a bunch of ingredients (and people to feed) and be chef-y.

I just realized that all three of the desserts I haven’t posted about were Pinterest inspired, so let’s start with my Father’s Day dessert.

This recipe comes from Willow Bird Baking. My mom found this and pinned it to me. I immediately started salivating and knew it would be on my to-make list. I figured Father’s Day would be a good time to mix cookie dough, chocolate and pretzels, and I was right. I was SO right that Tommy put his cookie dough cubes on his pulled pork sandwich. Some would call this disgusting, but others know it’s pure genius.

The recipe is basically egg-less cookie dough, on a shortbread crust, topped with mini pretzels and melted chocolate. In retrospect, I think I was supposed to use super mini pretzels, because the girl’s picture online looked like bite-size pieces, while mine were handfuls.

I’ve made egg-less cookie dough before and made it into truffles and other delicious desserts, but never used cream cheese in the “batter.” Probably because I don’t like cream cheese, which in turn means that I really didn’t like this dessert. Others did, so I think it was a good recipe, but I’d rather keep cream cheese far away from me at all times.

In her recipe, she talks about doubling what she had written, I did this but actually only brown buttered half and creamed the other half. Also I used regular sized chocolate chips and probably didn’t measure them.

Would I make it again? Absolutely, it was a great idea and super cute, I would just use a different filling recipe.

Speedy Summer Sweets

7 Jun

Oh I love alliteration in my headlines.

This summer, well so far in May and June which has felt very summery, I’ve been going back to my dessert roots.

When I first started making desserts for my friends and family, mostly my dad, I wasn’t really baking, just creatively combining ingredients. This non-baking desserts is perfect for two things – warm weather and dessert-ing with children.

Over Memorial Day weekend, I tackled two of this speedy summer sweets.

Although we have a fire pit in the backyard, we don’t use it very often, so I decided to make s’mores on the oven. Be careful if you do this because stoves can be tricky – make sure you don’t over burn your marshies!

On Memorial Day my sister and family came over and Madeline and I mixed together some red, white and blue snacks. We made vanilla instant pudding (with red sprinkles stirred in) and layered frozen strawberries, the pudding and fresh blueberries in sugar ice cream cones. I wish I had one of those ice cream cone stands for this project, but otherwise they were really cute and a healthy way to celebrate the patriotic holiday.

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