Tuesday, April 28, 2009

'Tis the Season!

Last night Seth and I went to the local school to play some basketball. Really it is him shooting around and me rebounding for him. Once in awhile I'll try a lay up but I am not athletic at all. When we left I mentioned that I couldn't wait to get home and have some lemonade. He laughed and told me in the winter I want hot chocolate after being in the snow and in the summer I want lemonade. Very true!

I'm giving a shout out to my pregnant friend Kelly. She mentioned that she has been drinking lemonade and wishing it was a margarita. While it doesn't have quite the same effect it is just as delicious! Kelly, this one is for you!

Source: ME!
Yield: One tall glass

Shake together juice of one lemon, 1 T simple syrup, and 1-2 cups water. To make simple syrup bring one cup water and one cup water to a boil. I also like to add a splash of club soda to my lemonade for a little fizz. Best enjoyed outside!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Chocolate Chile Cheesecake

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

This cheesecake is inspired by a pot de crème served at my favorite Mexican restaurant, El Camino.

El Camino is in Brunswick just off Main Street. Every time I go I imagine a scene in a horror flick of a serial killer in the desert. He has 4 chopped up cow girls in the trunk of his old Buick. It’s sweltering hot and the sun is pounding down on the dry Earth. He drives to this little Mexican place where the people are kind and they play old country music. (I’m talking older than Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson.) It’s decorated in bright colors and velvet paintings of cowboys and Indians. I envision the killer sitting at the bar ready to be refreshed by a hand shaken margarita, never letting on that he has decaying bodies in his vehicle.

Now about that pot de crème; it is chocolately and spicy. Topped with fresh whipped cream and caramel sauce made from local goat’s milk. The first time I tried it I worked hard to taste each piece of the dessert. There was spice coming from somewhere unexpected. Finely ground ancho chile on the top of it all. Yes, it’s in the pot de crème itself but the bit on the top really threw me for a loop. I love the combination of the spice with the sweet. The lightness of the whipped cream and dense chocolate flavor with the sweet caramel drizzle. Absolutely amazing.

I brought this cheesecake to an Asian inspired dinner at the home of my favorite Jewish friend. We all enjoyed it and you don’t get the heat of the pepper until after you swallow that first bite. I didn’t plan properly and make the cheesecake the day before; it should definitely sit for a day before serving. It was so much better for breakfast that next morning!

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake
Source: Abbey (of course)
Yield: One 8 inch cheesecake

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick butter melted
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 blocks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake

To make it chocolate chile I added 1/2-1 t. ceyanne pepper, 8 oz. melted bittersweet chocolate, 1 t. cinnamon.


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.
2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.
3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.
4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.
5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.
Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.
Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Twilight Cupcakes

Team Jacob!!

I was all for Edward until I finished New Moon. I haven't started the third book yet so don't give me any spoilers! (I looked back at this after a minute and rolled my eyes at myself. Am I a tween??)

I Googled "Twilight Cupcakes" to see what came up and there were these super cute ones with different sayings. One said, "Bella is my homegirl." I thought that was hilarious. I saw these on Annie's Eats and decided to make them for our staff meeting at MMSA tomorrow. In my opinion these cupcakes are more for show than for devine taste. They are good but definitely not one of my favorites.

I included a photo of a topless (!!!) cupcake so you could see what the cone should look like. I then cut the tip off to create a cap to put over the filling. Becareful not to add too much filling. I did on a few and it spilled over the side while frosting and it looked more like a massacre than the bite of a vampire.

Twilight Cupcakes
Source: Annie's Eats
Yield: 16 cupcakes

2 cups cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

1 can cherry pie filling

7 oz. pure white chocolate, coarsely chopped
6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 14 cups of muffin tins with paper liners. In a small bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir together with a fork. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar and butter and cream on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the egg whites one at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions. Stir in the vanilla extract. Add in the dry ingredients in three additions alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir just until combined, being careful not to overmix.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 16-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

To prepare the filling, puree the can of cherry pie filling using an immersion blender, blender, or food processor.

Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, cut a cone out of the center of each using a small paring knife. Cut off the point side of each cone, leaving a thin disc of cake to replace over the filling. Spoon just enough of the cherry filling into the hole to fill it, and cover by replacing the disc of cake on top. Repeat with remaining cupcakes.

To prepare the frosting, in a double boiler, melt the white chocolate, stirring constantly, until smooth and creamy. Let stand until just warm to the touch. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until smooth and blended. Add the melted chocolate and beat again until smooth.

Frost the cupcakes immediately. Using a bamboo skewer dipped in the left over cherry filling, poke two holes into the top of each cupcake to resemble bite marks. Trace a line of cherry filling from each hole to the edge of the cupcake to resemble dripping blood. Repeat with remaining cupcakes.

Banana Bites and Compost

Weird combo right? Well...I'm a weird gal.

I was going to start with compost talk but I thought these pictures of frozen chocolate covered banana bites would grab readers attention. I love these pictures almost as much as I love this frozen treat. I like to add salted peanuts on the outside. The mix of sweet chocolate, creamy banana, and salty nuts is amazing.

Now on to compost talk!

I have completed one full year with my compost bin. I'm so impressed with the result! Being the cheap person that I am I wouldn't spend a dime on a compost bin. I built mine from old pallets taking up space in my garage. I just throw in my compost materials (leaves, grass clippings, and fruit and veggie scraps PLUS WORMS!) and then turn it once in a while. It gets a lot of morning sun so that keeps it warm through out the day.

Look how dark it is! I just wish I had some chicken poop to add to it. My grandfather swore by the stuff and his garden was always lush and green.

And lastly, I expect my Magnolia tree to bloom this week. I've been checking the buds every morning and they are just starting to open. Check back later this week to see it in full bloom. I wish I could virtually send the smell of the blossoms. Wonderful!

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Snickerdoodles are certainly a sweet treat from my childhood. Mummy liked to make them for Robbie. All I remember, previous to being old enough to use the oven, was that Mummy always burned the bottom of these. I think of that EVERY single time I make these. I don't know if she really did or maybe she did once and was cautious of it every other time. Whatever the reason, I'm cautious whenever I bake these cookies.

I made this batch specifically for my father. The last time my sister was home he asked her if she was going to make Snickerdoodles. We were quite busy with other cooking/baking projects so we had to tell him no, that we weren't making them. I hate saying no to him and rarely I do. The next week I dropped a stack of the cookies at his office. He said he ate them before he left work for the day. Shhhh. Don't tell his girlfriend!

Source: Better Homes and Garden
Yield: 36 cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a medium mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the 1 cup sugar, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
In a small mixing bowl combine the 2 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in the sugar-cinnamon mixture to coat. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 10 to 11 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool. Makes about 36 cookies.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Not only can I bake...I can design logos.

I'll give myself half credit for this since the middle part is a scan of a coaster (if you're local you know where it came from). Seth wanted these to sell for his band. I just want one to hold my Bud Lite. Although, if you are using the right sized glass a koozie can fit over a vodka tonic.

Tax Day Cupcakes

We've all heard it. Time and time again over the past months. "These are tough times." These tough times have led to a 20% cut in my job. I love my lifestyle and was having a hard time envisioning a cut in my fun money. Would I give up going out to eat or dance class? Pilates or wine on the weekends?

I asked around and asked my family to pass on the word that I was looking for part time work. Just something to supplement my lost income. Enter my mother-in-law. She pulled some strings and was able to offer me part time work at the accounting firm she works with. I never knew there would be such a huge difference between a non profit office and a business office. I'm not talking work. I'm not talking office procedures (although there are differences). I'm talking personalities. They play music in this business office. All the different offices and cubicles all have music going! They have a Sponge Bob basketball hoop. They play games! They have fun and laugh and sometimes...they even swear!

Today was tax day and at the end of the day they have a party with mini golf around the office and snacks in the conference room. MIL asked me to bring cupcakes and and I was sure the frosting needed to be green. MONEY MONEY MONEY! I didn't have a vanilla cupcake recipe that was my go to recipe. I do now! Supposedly this recipe comes from Magnolia Bakery in NYC. I found it fantastic. The frosting is my own recipe that I use for most of my cupcakes. Just powdered sugar, milk, shortening, Fluff, and vanilla.

Vanilla Cupcakes
Source: Food Network
Yield: 20 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line 2 (1/2 cup-12 capacity) muffin tins with cupcake papers.
In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.
In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Monday, April 6, 2009

Maine Maple Sunday (Faux Real)

I love going to Jillson's farm in Sabattus for Maine Maple Sunday. We wait in line (sometimes in the rain) and pay $10 a person to get wedged into a corner just to taste the sweet syrup drizzled over pancakes, bacon, biscuits, eggs, potatoes, beans, and more. This year we didn't get to go and made up for that by having our own when Caroline and Cate were here. We didn't get the variety but we had food and family and that is all I need!

As you can see, Cate really likes Faux Maine Maple Sunday. (actually I think I was being roared.)

Dad's secret to the best pancakes is cooking them after you cook the bacon. That way they sit in the bacon grease. Sure my arteries may put up a fight but my belly is happy.

This was my dad's dish. Three pancakes with two eggs over medium on top. With syrup over the whole thing. I think there may have been some bacon in there too.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spring has sprung (Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins, Granola Bars)

Spring at 179 means a couple things. I start spending a lot of my free time outside getting my hands dirty in my gardens. I have so much to look forward to after work each day. I get home and check on my flowers and plants to see how they are progressing. And lastly, Seth starts back to work full time...which means that I have to start packing his lunches.

I've really been trying to think of creative things to put in his lunch. He is a vegetarian. He eats his lunch in a truck. So I am quite limited. Today I made Oatmeal Blueberry Applesauce Muffins from Joy the Baker as well as Alton Brown's Granola Bars. Both things that I can have on hand to stuff in his lunch in a pinch. Plus they are healthy. Both photos and recipes are at the end of this post.

Crocuses in full bloom. I love the variety of colors. Beautiful.

Pink Bleeding Heart just starting to poke through the soil. I'm hoping my white one didn't die during the winter. I can see where the roots are but they look a bit brown and mushy. I have my fingers crossed that it is just slow.

Pink Peonies! I was surprised at how much these spread over the year. This is the second year I have had this on the side of the house. My grandfather had split the plant and thrown half in the woods. I found it a few years ago and transplanted it. I'm happy it is has done so well.

This is my sad sad garden. I have promised myself to scale back since I wasn't able to manage it very well last year (never mind that I was preoccupied with a wedding). This year I am thinking green beans (bush), cherry tomatoes, red tomatoes, gourds, zukes, cukes, and maybe some peppers (sweet and hot).

Today I promised Boyd that I would look around for his leash and run so he could spend some time outside. After digging through the piles of crap in the garage Seth was able to find it and Boyd was able to join us in the sun. It didn't take him long to get into trouble.

Daddy to the rescue!

Then he played dead.

Yummy healthy muffins!

Oatmeal Blueberry Applesauce Muffins
Yield: 12 muffins (I doubled and made 12 huge muffins)

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tbsp canola oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper cases or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large bowl combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a medium bowl combine applesauce, buttermilk, sugar, oil and egg. Make a well in dry ingredients and add applesauce mixture. Stir until just moist. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.

Bake for 16-18 minutes.

These granola bars are really good. Much more healthy and cheaper than the ones you buy in the grocery store!!

Granola Bars
Source: Alton Brown
Yield: 12 squares

8 ounces old-fashioned rolled oats, approximately 2 cups
1 1/2 ounces raw sunflower seeds, approximately 1/2 cup
3 ounces sliced almonds, approximately 1 cup
1 1/2 ounces wheat germ, approximately 1/2 cup
6 ounces honey, approximately 1/2 cup
1 3/4 ounces dark brown sugar, approximately 1/4 cup packed
1-ounce unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 1/2 ounces chopped dried fruit, any combination of apricots, cherries or blueberries

Butter a 9 by 9-inch glass baking dish and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Spread the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, and wheat germ onto a half-sheet pan. Place in the oven and toast for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, combine the honey, brown sugar, butter, extract and salt in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until the brown sugar has completely dissolved.
Once the oat mixture is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees F. Immediately add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture, add the dried fruit, and stir to combine. Turn mixture out into the prepared baking dish and press down, evenly distributing the mixture in the dish and place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Car Bomb!

Oh how I love my ladies. I've been looking forward to this month's BKT baking day all week. We had set the date and the project at our last get together a month ago. We had all seen Smitten Kitchen make the car bomb cupcakes and were so excited to try them ourselves. We always have lunch at our gathering and decided to have pizza on this dreary day. The photo portion of this post is divided into two parts, lunch and the cupcakes.

We have such a great time when we get together. We were at Toria's today and we all work so well together. Each of us does some of the dishes...we all read the recipe...we each take initiative for parts of the recipe. We are a great team. While the pizza was cooking we watched a Will & Grace rerun which is always sure to leave me in stitches. Got to love Jack McFarland. Of course there was a bit of animal harassment. Toria has two cats, Lola and Baxter. Baxter had the pleasure of getting a dab of ganache (loaded with Irish whiskey) on his nose. He proceeded to the living room to pass out. Sammy S. is on this list for harassment next month!

These cupcake were so good. I will admit that I may have gone a wee bit overboad with the whiskey in the ganache filling. It is a bit strong. But really...what harm can a little extra whiskey do? The frosting is wonderful. I love the flavor of the Irish cream. These came together much faster than I thought they would. I can't wait to have another.

Of course we all had to take our turn cleaning the bowl!

The prettiest Jewish girl I know!!

Kacey made these delicious pea and mushroom dumplings. I sort of have a thing for vegetable dumplings. I had them once in San Francisco and haven't been able to find many around here. These were really good! The extra one even ended up on our pizza!! (look at those pretty pink finger nails!)

It appears to be the hip thing to put egg on pizza, pasta, and salads lately. I've been wanting to try egg on my pizza and Kacey was willing to try but Toria wasn't all for it. I think it was the runniness of the egg that got her. We ended up cooking the egg too long so it wasn't so much runny as it was gummy. Yummy none the less.

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes
Yield: 20 to 24 cupcakes
Source: Smitten Kitchen

For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes
1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Ganache Filling
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (optional)

Baileys Frosting
3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperatue
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination thereof)

Special equipment: 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer and a piping bag (though a plastic bag with the corner snipped off will also work)

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Make the filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains. 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will also work.) Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.

Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, using your 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. A slim spoon or grapefruit knife will help you get the center out. Those are your “tasters”. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.

Ice and decorate the cupcakes.